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High-tech visuals compensated for Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington’s lack of charisma at the State Fair on Tuesday.

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Jared Leto outshines Linkin Park at Minnesota State Fair

  • Article by: Chris Riemenschneider
  • Star Tribune
  • August 27, 2014 - 8:55 AM

What an appropriate name for a concert at the Minnesota State Fair grandstand: The Carnivores Tour. Only problem was that the show’s most famous performer is well known to be a vegan.

Whether Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto managed to find something to eat amid the fair’s meaty, buttery, fatty offerings Tuesday, the “Dallas Buyers Club” star should have been happy about playing to his thickest Twin Cities crowd yet, after more than a decade of steady gigging here with his drama-heavy rock band 30 Seconds to Mars.

Leto’s group opened up for rap-rock kingpins and former arena headliners Linkin Park, and it was debatable which band had more appeal to the 14,454 fans. However, there wasn’t much debate over which group put on the more ecstatic, captivating, wow of a performance.

If God handed out job titles at birth, Leto’s certificate would have read “rock star” even before “actor” — and certainly before “singer” (he’s emotive but indistinctive vocally). A 42-year-old who looks 29, he could be fronting a polka band and he’d still give Jim Morrison and Bono a run for their showman money, what with his grandiose gesturing, poetic lyrics and oozing charisma.

From the get-go Tuesday, Leto worked the crowd like he was in front of disciples, constantly doling out such messianic stage banter as “We believe in you. Do you believe in us?” His Jesus-like comments matched his long, pretty locks and woolly beard. He even ran easily through the crowd and up into the grandstand during the hit “Kings and Queens” as if he were walking on water.

Musically, 30 Seconds to Mars sounded less than miraculous, like a second-rate U2 knockoff with a metallic backbone.

The high point of its set was the whirringly climactic “This Is War” and the fervent final song “Closer to the Edge,” for which Leto invited about 50 dancing fans onstage. The low point was Leto’s solo-acoustic turn on “The Kill” just before the finale, which sounded like a passionate dorm-room YouTube upload from a depressed, college freshman. He had his shirt off by then, though, so at least half the crowd didn’t seem to notice.

Compared to Leto’s good looks and romantic aesthetic, Linkin Park seemed just plain ugly — in a good way at first, as the band opened up with the new thrash-punky roarer “Guilty All the Same” and had the crowd raging a few songs later with the bleak hit “One Step Closer.”

One of the biggest bands in rock in the early ’00s, Linkin Park never had much in the charisma or showman department even back then. With his closely shaven head and Squiggy voice, the band’s grrr-ing co-leader, Chester Bennington, came off like the anti-Jared Leto. He spent most of the night clenching his microphone tightly and leaning over in a pained, balled-up position.

Two things Linkin Park still does well is offer a high-tech visual barrage (which makes up the charisma shortfall) and incorporate hip-hop beats into its crunchy, metallic sound.

The V-shaped video screens and myriad moody lights did not disappoint Tuesday, and neither did some of rapping co-vocalist Mike Shinoda’s feistiest moments, including “Remember the Name” — although that one and several other oldies were abbreviated to make room for a drum solo and less impactful new songs. Lord only knows what they were thinking. Or maybe Jared knows.

 

See a concert photo gallery at startribune.com/music

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658

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