I'll be honest, Hybrid Theory said nothing to me about my life. When Linkin Park's debut album emerged in 2000, cementing nu-metal's position as the dominant commercial force within our world, it didn't soundtrack my first relationship, or my first break-up, or my gap year or graduation blow-outs. But looking around Donington Park at 9:15 this evening, one wonders whether holding a 90,000 capacity rock and metal festival in this country in 2014 would even be possible if not for Hybrid Theory.
Linkin Park, Main Stage
Venue: Download, Main Stage
Record fourth Download headline appearance from the nu-metal kingpins
The first 36 minutes of Linkin Park's headline set this evening is met with a rapturous reception. From the moment Mike Shinoda bounces onstage in a bright red wig to introduce Papercut, a knowing reference to his appearance at the dawn of the century, the LA band reel back the years with a fiercely energetic set that sees every 20-something in the field revisiting their teenage rock club moves. Shinoda prefaces Crawling with an introduction about Bring Me The Horizon frontman Oli Sykes' first ever rock show being a Linkin Park concert on the UK leg of the Hybrid Theory tour, telling a hushed crowd that the next Oli Sykes or Pete Wentz might be in the crowd this evening, a sweet little motivational speech which chimes nicely with the feel-good mood of the day.
Hearing Hybrid Theory performed in its entirety for the very first time is a potent reminder of it's precision-tooled power. Each of the album's four singles - One Step Closer, Crawling, Papercut and In The End - is a flawless exercise in emotional manipulation, with not a wasted note in it's slick transitions, each section ratcheting up the intensity levels. Truthfully, the likes of Forgotten and Cure For The Itch are pure filler, but this hardly matters: as with Thriller or Hysteria or any other multi-platinum phenomenon you might care to mention the perfection of the radio cuts render the rest of the album largely irrelevant.
The remaining two thirds of the sextet's set is a more measured, less emotional and ultimately more subdued affair. The LA band are far too professional and self-aware to permit attention to ever wander too far from their standard crowd-pleasers - Numb, New Divide, What I've Done - but there are indulgences too, and the crowd noticeably thins as the set progresses. Ahead of the release of The Hunting Party, Guilty All The Same is a reminder that Linkin Park can dip back into riff-rock at will, but truthfully a return to such bullish simplicity would be a retrograde step for a band who have evolved and matured with considerable class and imagination.
The big question, however, is who's out there to step up when this nostalgia loses its appeal?