I first began following Mike Shinoda on his Post Traumatic World Tour in June of this year in New York City. Deciding at the last possible moment to make the three-hour trip to attend, my family and I all piled into the car. We began the wild and, at times, the hectic trip to NYC — one that would include a sudden flat tire on I-78 (ouch!) and a two-hour detour into Easton, PA, for a new tire before arriving. It was my first visit to that incredible city in my lifetime, and what an unforgettable first visit it would end up being.
Making my way to the World Trade Center memorial that night to pay respects before heading towards the Gramercy Theatre, I was reminded of how quickly life can change in an instant. How things can be so confident and feel so safe one moment and be forever changed the next. As I sat in the taxi on the way to the show, I began thinking of all the people important to me that I’ve lost and how grateful I am to still be here to honor their memory. That feeling would continue throughout Mike’s entire set, and I would wind up leaving the venue that night with a renewed sense of perspective, a thankfulness to my loved ones, and all the memories they’ve given me.
How appropriate then, that many months later, at his last show of the Monster: Outbreak/Post Traumatic North American Tour, the overarching theme of the night seemed to be one of gratitude and thankfulness. Since his first show in May of this year, Mike always has, without fail, paid respects to his friend and brother Chester Bennington. Using a piano interlude before ‘In The End,’ he would talk about some of his favorite memories with Chester, Linkin Park, or the city he was in. Saturday night in Maryland would prove to be no different, as he used the interlude to discuss his thankfulness for the support of his fans with Chester and their support over his career.
“It’s been a really crazy year and a half and a real rough one at times. But you, the fans, have been so instrumental in helping me keep going, so I thank you from the bottom of my heart [….] I appreciate you guys being there. Some of you have been here every step of the way, or many steps of the way, so thank you for that.”
Witnessing him on stage performing Linkin Park, Fort Minor, and Post Traumatic songs, it was impossible not to recognize Mike’s massive change and growth as a performer (and person). Tasked with the reality that a possible future of Linkin Park could be with only him on lead vocals, Shinoda has not shied away from this potential challenge. Instead, since that first solo show in California in May, Mike has risen to this task beautifully — developing a swagger, confidence, and live vocal quality that proves he is up to whatever challenge that is thrown his way.
Featuring 12 Linkin Park songs in his November 17th set (including partial songs, medleys, and mashups), fans were not only treated to songs from his solo works but also glimpses as to what a Mike Shinoda-led Linkin Park could sound like. If the show from this past Saturday is any indication, the future of Linkin Park is in competent hands.
But it was not just the quality of the performances or the energy of his live set that really struck me this time around. I’ve seen three Mike Shinoda shows this year (NYC, Philadelphia, and Silver Spring), and each one was as solid as we’ve come to expect from a man who already delivered quality performances alongside Chester for almost twenty years. No, what stood out to me the most that night was the amount of laughter and happiness on display. Joy radiated from a man who has gone through so much in such a small amount of time. Witnessing his resilience was inspiring. And thinking back on that night, I’m reminded of something Mike said back in July at the Post Traumatic release show in NYC:
“I want you to know that when we do that [In The End], some people get really sad. And I want you to know that for me, I know that you’re feeling that, and that’s OK, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But as I’ve gone on and done that song more and more, it turns it into – for me, a celebration. There’s Dia de Los Muertos, and in Japan, actually, they have the Obon festival, which is the same thing, and we celebrate the dead. I’m so appreciative of you guys being a part of that with me.”
Based on the lyrical content on most Post Traumatic, it would be easy to believe that these shows will be a heartbreaking and/or depressing experience. However, as someone who has seen three of these shows, I can attest that the vibe is anything but. There’s something different about these shows and even other concerts I’ve attended, in the sense that they are simultaneously uplifting, healing, and inspirational. You don’t go to a Mike Shinoda show and leave feeling any sadness you had going in.
Instead, there’s a feeling of togetherness, family, and shared love between artist and fan that you won’t get anywhere else. It’s catharsis. There’s a reason Linkin Park fans are consistently referred to as the gold standard by music marketing firms; it’s because their connection with the band is truly one of a kind.
Perhaps what we could all really use right now is that feeling of unity and togetherness. Because if there’s anything that I’ve learned since losing some people very near and dear to me over the past two years, it’s that losses often can paralyze us. They can zap us of our drive, passion, and desire to keep going at the things we used to love. Losing people we credit as integral to who we are can often make us question if we’ll ever be the person we used to be before those events occurred.
What Mike Shinoda has managed to show us all since July 2017 is that it’s okay to have these questions and doubts. So long as you never forget to keep going, celebrating the life and memories you had with that person. In navigating through his grief on stage, on record, and in interviews throughout the past 16 months, Mike has managed to demonstrate a character, strength, and resilience that all of us should strive to match. He has been a leader for many people looking for answers in the wake of their own losses. I think his fans (including myself) and the people around him have all learned a thing or two about ourselves from his own journey, and for that, I, and many others, are incredibly grateful.
If you haven’t caught Mike Shinoda on tour yet and witnessed what one of his production managers have referred to as ‘the Church of Shinoda,’ make sure to change that the next time he comes through your town. There’s simply no other show like it.
[Editors Note: A previous version of this article had the Gramercy Theatre date as being in July. The show actually occurred at the end of June, and this has since been corrected].