If you recall rock radio in the aftermath of 9/11, you may have reveled in the vocal-blasting power of Linkin Park’s “Crawling.” A song about addiction, it’s also a musical testament to the indomitable human spirit in the face of tragedy. Indeed, there were few moments more cathartic than hearing singer Chester Bennington tear into the chorus: Crawling in my skin/These wounds they will not heal.
Time and great music heal all wounds. Linkin Park would go on to sell—Christ, look at this number—more than 60 million records, win Grammys and force snobby asshole critics like me to take a nu-metal/rap-rock band seriously. Even better, it only took Bennington 15 years to secure a spot fronting arguably the best rock ’n’ roll all-star team-up of the moment: Kings of Chaos. Notice I’m careful to avoid the term “supergroup” …
“From my perspective, a supergroup is when members of two successful bands leave their bands and form something new,” insists Bennington during a recent phone chat with Vegas Seven. “My generational examples of a supergroup would be Velvet Revolver and Audioslave. With the members of Kings of Chaos, we’re all in intact groups, so we have a large catalog of songs from each of our bands that we can play live.”
The current Kings of Chaos lineup, which performs three shows at House of Blues this week, guarantees an incredible set list: singer Corey Taylor (Slipknot), singer/guitarist Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), guitarist Billy Duffy (The Cult), guitarist Steve Stevens (Billy Idol), drummer Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses) and bassist Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots). Bennington won’t give away which songs he’s performing, but he admits he’ll be sharing the mic with Taylor and Gibbons.
“We try to give everyone time to shine,” he says. “There are songs I’m not familiar with, which makes for a challenge and gives me a competitive boner. Being in Kings of Chaos brings me back to my early days in bands when I was doing it for fun. We don’t have any originals. So how about we play covers of songs we love?”
Speaking of love, Bennington’s musical mentor and friend, the late Scott Weiland, is never far from his mind when taking the stage. After all, it was the STP frontman who took the Linkin Park singer to his first concert featuring Camp Freddy, a now-defunct all-star rock covers outfit (and Kings of Chaos prototype), for which Bennington ended up performing. (He also fronted STP for a while.) But on the whole, there’s less melancholy and more joy when the lights come up and the amplifiers erupt. It’s during a Kings of Chaos show that Bennington checks his ego and delivers a song to an audience.
“I’m just a fan, so when I go out and do, say, a Jane’s Addiction song, I want to do a great job and nail it. People don’t want to hear the Chester Bennington version. So I sing it the way I heard it growing up.”
Sure, at age 40, he’s the youngest Kings of Chaos member, but don’t expect the Linkin Park leader to feel insecure among his heroes.
“When I first started doing these all-star shows 12 years ago, I was onstage with all my idols one minute, and the next I’m backstage and they’re talking with me like I’m one of them. Amazing,” he says. “Now I feel like I’m in there. I’ve earned my spot. I feel like Linkin Park is on that level, that we’re all on our way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and that I’m in the right place. I just have to go out there and be myself.”
Kings of Chaos
Dec. 1-3, 8 p.m., $45-$100, House of Blues, houseofblues.com/lasvegas