Sean Paden, who happens to be Brad Delson’s Guitar Tech, was so nice to write a review of the iHeart Radio Festival in Las Vegas for us! All the pictures in the review are taken from his Instagram account @stage_rad, including his photo captions. Huge thanks to Sean for writing this!
I volunteered to review the Linkin Park iHeart radio festival in Las Vegas and, after doing so, realized I can’t give a typical critic or review of the performance. I thought to myself, how can I do this while working the show? The reality is I can’t. But what I can do is give you a play-by-play perspective of sorts from my view as Brad Delson’s guitar tech. So, I guess the best place to start is at the pre-load into the show the night before.
iHeart Radio is similar to working an awards show like the Grammy’s or the AMA’s — many different kinds of music and many different productions. Most of the time these things turn into a big pissing match between the bands different productions. Who can out do whom and scenarios like that. So coming into this show, I’m thinking about all the other times I’ve been in this scenario and running all kinds of questions through my head. Where is my gear going on stage? Where it will spend the night? Is there security to protect it? At the same, off-loading it from our truck and making sure everything traveled well from the last show in San Diego.
So, the pre-load was a success with no major set backs. The next big question is where all the pyro and show effects going to be located during the show? Would I be safe from the flames? How many dragon heads (the mechanical part of the flame throwers) could we place on the stage and could it be done in the time a lotted — which on paper is thirty minutes. I never hold my breathe on scheduled sequences as it always changes and can mess with your head if try and control the chain of events out of your control.
So the night before to re-cap — the truck was unloaded, all the gear checked and prepped for a 7:00 a.m. load to stage, and a full band soundcheck. Day one concluded and off to bed confident about the next day. Good Night.
Day two (show day). I’ve been doing this type of work a long time now and when there is a ton of bands on a bill, you are sure to run into a few friends. Today was no different except it seemed like everywhere I looked there was someone I haven’t talk to or seen in many years. Catching up with long lost roadie friends is great, especially when they are working the show as well. It makes you feel like there are a lot of others looking out for your best interests — my interests being a successful performance. With the extra sense of security knowing my friends have my back, I start to relax a little.
This type of work is very stressful. It runs on a clock that never stops and there are no second chances to make the right impression. Some of you may know that I’ve been working with Linkin Park for almost ten years now. I bring this up because one of the main reasons I continue to work here is because of the crew. Sure there are times when it sucks and people express their desire to quit etc., myself included, but when I’m working a show around a lot of other production crews, it makes you realize the strength of our crew. I’m very proud of this team and our relentless efforts to help produce a Linkin Park show. It’s cool to see other crews watching us work or directly complimenting our team for its ease to work with and our high standards of professionalism. When our crew came into the arena today, the local crew was immediately making comments about how much fun we were all going to have. Thats a great feeling!
With everyone helping, we loaded the stage and powered up our gear for our line check. Of course, a Linkin Park line check would not be complete without a little “Faint” roadie style. Our version of their song is a little different. I play little solo melody stuff in the verses and do a different solo towards the end. All this helps me and the rest of the crew make sure the monitors are as close to perfect as we can get before Brad and the others take the stage. Today was awesome. Both guitar rigs really sounded great. Pooch and Tater, our superior sound engineers, both made praising comments. That always feels good as I take my job seriously and truly care about how the bands guitars sound.
With the line check and roadie jam a success, the band members began to walk to the stage for their soundcheck. Mike was first on the scene, which is usually the case. That man has a lot going on and enjoys the process of performing and performing well. He was followed by Mr. Hahn who commented to me favorably about my guitar playing during the roadie jam. When I’m home I spend all my time building guitars, not playing them, so it’s cool to hear things like that. Next Brad comes to the stage full of smiles and queries about my time at home. He always seems to be in positive spirits!! I told him I would be doing this review and he asked me if it was going to be good? I told him, “we will find out.” But, in my mind there was little doubt to the success of tonight’s performance, especially with the entire band excited about a thirty minute set which includes music from 12 different songs and Mike’s enthusiastic ability to rap at will. Winning!
The band did a complete run through of the nights performance working with all of us to make sure all of our cues and moves were rehearsed. This set contains super fast guitar changes within some abbreviated versions of iconic Linkin Park standards. For such a short playing time, the band was planning on giving the audience a full glimpse of their musical catalog. The soundcheck ended successfully with band members excited and happy. We marked the gear locations with tape to avoid wasting time during our set change and struck the gear from the stage.
It’s 11:30 a.m. — time to eat lunch and take a nap before the show. You know, we kind of started the Living Things tour here at the MGM during the billboard awards. It felt like a homecoming of sorts to me. This feeling just added to the already good vibes shared among our entire Linkin Park touring family. My show call is 8:30 tonight…see you then.
I came back on site to eat dinner in catering around 7 o’clock, man was it good! After dinner and a bowl of ice cream for dessert with my bro Brad Stonner (Rob’s drum tech), we went back to the gear to begin staging it to move back onstage. That seems easy enough but with all these different bands and loading on to a rotating stage designed to have minimal down time between performers, it can get crazy. The stage we are on is basically a circle on wheels. It allows the production to load one band’s set pieces and gear while another band is performing. So what this means to us is when its our time to load the stage, we have to wait for the previous band to strike and then load our gear, set risers, plug it back in and make sure it all works again in about ten minutes. It’s pretty much like watching chickens running around with their heads cut off. Sometimes this can be hilarious, other times not so much. Oh by the way, I forgot to tell you about the record truck on-site to broadcast the show. Not only do we as a crew have to make sure the gear is working correctly, but we also have to patiently wait our turn to check each input for the record truck…stressful.
Mary J. Blige was performing while Taylor Swift’s production was loading on to the other half of the turn table…it’s almost time to load our set. Like I was saying earlier, we have to wait until the last band strikes their set which meant we were waiting for Mary J. to come off. Taylor Swift is performing now. Mary J.’s people were awesome and got off the stage very quickly. As this was happening the Taylor Swift guitar techs decided to set up their pedalboards on our side of the stage right where I was setting up stage rad world. That did not go over very well with me at all. Super lame on their part, but I didn’t expect anything less from that clueless bunch. I’ve seen bags of rocks smarter, so I decided to angrily work around those a-holes. That aside, my gear is on, working and HOT! Let’s F**king Rock this show! And the stage turns!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I handed Brad his stage headphones, the “red soldier” PRS guitar, a pick and told him to kick some ass! And, off he went to do so! As a commercial video comes to a close in the arena, Mike Shinoda enters the stage to start the show intro — a piano interlude to “In The End.” The guitar rig sounded great for this show which was an extra bonus to the mood of the band. They were in great spirits and ready to win over this audience which was not their typical crowd. They killed it with an abbreviated version of the song! Chester singing great and kicking his voice into high gear.
Wow, here comes a super fast guitar change for “Bleed It Out.” Right out of the gate…wham bam, our guys are not joking tonight! An edited version of this song as well. No sabotage break down though…OMG that crowd could not handle that. Another quick transition into a Mike rapping intro. I don’t have him in my mix so don’t know what he is rapping but the reaction he gets from the crowd is always killer! And tonight was no different. Mike definitely has his own flow — once he gets started look out! I met Brad at the keyboard riser and retrieved the “Bleed It Out” guitar so he could start “Waiting for the End” (another classic in my opinion). Once again a shorter version but where the guitar solo hits in this edit really made a huge impact to me. I hear this song performed on a nightly basis, and I love this version! After the extended outro, we immediately moved into my favorite live song — “LOST IN THE ECHO” — the full album version complete with “cyro” air burst effects and epicness! This song for me is bombastic! The way the guitar hits live is awesome! Remember, I said the guitar rig was sounding amazing tonight, so it was probably the best performance of this song that Linkin Park has performed to date. If you were to tell Mike that I said that, he would probably respond with “Sean thinks everything we do is awesome.” He might be right, but in this case, I would have to say really AWESOME! Also, during this song Brad wanted his Converse “Chucks” instead of the shoes he started the show with, so I sent word to bring the shoes to the stage. The shoes made it the stage, and I want to say he changed during the performance of this song. I remember him handing me a Stratocaster as he changed shoes. This song would have been the only one where he would have had any time to do that.
With my adrenaline still pumping, I enter the stage for another guitar change as the band moves into yet another classic with “Numb!” Joe Hahn — hit it! The first power chord hits me as a return back to stage rad (that’s what we call stage right) world. The guitar is powerful in this song and tonight they are playing it “Numb/Encore” style with an extended outro, perfect to set up the medley “LOATR/SOTD/IRIDESCENT.” During this medley, Brad and I usually have time to talk about things….sometimes it’s about guitars and fast changes, stuff about the show, etc. Tonight it was conversation about how fun the performance is going and questions about home. “What’s that noise,” he says to me as he was hearing Aerosmith check their amps on the outside of the turn-table stage. I yelled “it’s Aerosmith checking their amps.” He was off…left the stage headed for the other side and quickly the amp checking stopped. Brad returned to the stage as if he never left and picked up our conversation right where he left off. All of this happening while Mike and Chester are emotionally performing the medley, which is very moody in presentation and I understand why Brad wanted that “noise” to stop. Kinda funny stuff but not funny at the same time. I’ve been working with Brad a long time and have the greatest respect for him. The fact that he cares about my home life is important…it makes me feel like he cares (I think he truly does), which makes me want to work that much harder for these guys.
With conversation winding down and some well deserved water to keep hydrated, I put his main Rory Gallagher Stratocaster on him and send him out for his part of the medley. It’s a cool medley. Even cooler for me as Chester plays one of my Green Guitar Project guitars during the Iridescent part. MIke plays one too during “Lost In The Echo.” I’m glad they like my guitars enough to play them live. It’s a great honor for me and is greatly appreciated. Thank you guys!
With the guitars feeding back at the end of the medley and Mike putting his fender strat on, the band begins….”What I’ve Done!” A side note….I joke around with these guys about their set lists all the time. Mainly, about the fact that they just write hit songs. It’s crazy to me how many great songs they have. They have not even put out a greatest hits record yet. My jokes are about how their greatest hits record would now have to be a boxset! Or at least a greatest hits with three volumes. Ha Ha Ha. Anyways, per usual, the crowd goes crazy as everyone and their mother knows this song. Tonight its short and sweet with the guitar solo set up again perfectly! I felt like I was a little late on the patch cue for the solo but Brad, center stage, performed probably the best solo of 2012 of this song for sure. At least that’s how it felt from my vantage point.
Moving on, we come to the fire portion of the show, which means another guitar change followed by Mike Shinoda’s keyboard intro to “Burn It Down!” OMG! See what I mean about the songs? This is my four year old son’s favorite song and he performs it himself a cappella where ever we are upon a mere mention of the song. Hilarious stuff going on at my house. Sorry, back to the show. This song has never been a problem for the band to perform and tonight was no exception. The hardest part of this song is keeping the guys from walking into the pyro. Yes!, we loaded pyro on this stage and at closer proximity than usual so redirecting the guys was key. I’m usually under our set but tonight I was closer than I wanted to be to the flames. Oh my, that pyro is hot! I do have some pedalboard mutes during this song, so I had nowhere to hide. I had to stay by the amps so I felt the full effect of the flames. It’s all in good fun and I’m not in danger by any means, but that pry is really hot! The song came to an end with another pyro effect called a “waterfall” which always invokes a huge crowd reaction.
Okay, we are only twenty-two minutes into the performance and all this has happened. As I enter the stage again, I realize this is my last guitar change of the night and that this show is almost over. Man, I can remember feeling bummed that this show was coming to an end. Not for any other reason other than the fact that we, as a whole, were having a great time (band and crew). I heard reports that the crowd sucked and stuff like that but the band knows where their fans are. We were having fun showing these other acts how to do it, so to speak. Not taking anything away from the other performers, but I did not see anything that made me take a second look. Say what you will about Linkin Park, all I know is I’ve never had anybody come up to me after a show and say Linkin Park is just okay live. The reaction is always “WOW, those guys are amazing!” My reaction is always “I told Ya!” Bummed I’m doing the last guitar change, I put the ole faithful “Red Soldier” back on Brad so he can start the guitars for “Faint” (set-list joke again). What can’t you say about this song — it makes you want to jump up and down. I remembering seeing fifty-year-old local stage hands on the side of the stage catching themselves moving to this song. Funny shit! Nothing wrong with fifty-year-olds by any means. It’s just hard to get a positive reaction from a young audience, let alone a older individual jaded by this industry. Brad performed another crazy solo on the out followed by guitar feedback into the infamous LO-FI guitar intro of “One Step Closer.” Wow, besides a few pedalboard moves, the show is really over for me,
I begin my break down process of the gear but continue paying close attention to the pedalboard moves I make during this song. In my end of show mode, its hard to remember all the details of the actual performance of this song. I’m thinking about what piece of gear from this rig has to go to South America. I’m thinking about my flight home tomorrow. I’m reminding myself to get the stage headphones from Brad as he leaves. Is there any after-show food, etc.? Unless I hear something go wrong with amps or the guitar, I’m already loading out. I do remember feeling all the pyro cues…how could you not? It’s like jumping in a volcano then jumping out really, really fast. I also remember the guys giving praise and high fives all around as we conquered yet another non-Linkin Park audience. No broken guitars or any other mishaps; just six dudes and their crew performing twelve glimpses into an epic career in just 30 minutes. iHEART RADIO!!!
Until we meet again….All The Best, Sean Paden
P.S. I post tons of behind scenes photos on instagram @stage_rad