It’s been a long time since anyone heard the name Fort Minor. The last London show was 10 years ago, the album The Rising Tied was released in 2005, and there’s really been very little to suggest any activity from Mike Shinoda’s side project until now. With the new release of the Welcome EP, Mike has graced the stage once again with a single man show, choosing his London venue as the surprisingly small Scala at Kings Cross – a venue with a capacity of just 800 people. No wonder that this one night show sold out.
What was immediately refreshing upon entering the venue was the intimacy of it all. Prior to the show, Shinoda had organised a meet and greet for a lucky few lottery winners off of the Linkin Park Underground website, something that these days is not offered by as many artists as one would like. But it was clear from the moment I saw the stage that the whole point of tonight wasn’t so he could smash out a killer set, play an encore and then leave the audience in raw awe, the idea was that Mike could actually interact with the crowd, talk to them, and let them know a bit more about his own process. Every person in that room was there for the one man, the atmosphere was almost palpable. Before Shinoda took his place on stage in front of his impressive but somewhat humble rig (there was nothing on stage in way of set pieces or backgrounds, just one man, his synths and a guitar) the audience were crying out for him with chants of “MIKE, MIKE, MIKE, MIKE…”, a sound that was fairly awe inspiring, even just to listen to. You can only imagine being him backstage and hearing that. It was no wonder that his entrance was met with screams and cheers that could lift the ceiling, and he immediately entered into ‘Petrified’ where, of course, us in the crowd filled in the answer-back lyrics.
His whole performance was flawless, his rhythm on point and his words clear. Between each song he would elaborate on what each piece meant to him, or what program setting allowed him to create each loop. A few surprises were thrown in for the older fans, such as the Linkin Park feat. The Executioners track ‘It’s Going Down’ (a track that apparently would’ve been under the name of Fort Minor in alternative circumstances), an on the spot remix of ‘Place For My Head’ and the origin story of ‘Devils Drop’.
As he continued through the set, one couldn’t help but be spellbound by his stories: his thoughts on history, racial tensions (following from a highlight performance of ‘Kenji’) and his genuine sincerity. Even with his goliath career from his work in Linkin Park, seeing Shinoda perform as Fort Minor was a real jewel of a show. It reminded us that even though he can play a festival stage and bounce up and down its entirety, even though he can play stadiums, even though he could’ve very easily chosen to do this solo show in an even slightly larger venue, he didn’t need to for this. He was completely human, there was no showmanship to this, no flaunting and no act. Just one man, playing the music he loves, being able to engage with the fans – there were many points during the night where he walked at the front of the crowd, even letting them sing the odd line – and making us all remember why we love the smaller shows. This simply wouldn’t have worked in a large setting, the Brixton Academy would’ve swallowed this atmosphere and replaced it with a more isolated ‘one man on a stage’ feel, which would’ve changed the experience entirely.
The simplicity of the show was genius. No support acts, no special guests to join him on stage, no extravagant set pieces, not even really a story. Just Shinoda, doing his thing. Admittedly, it did clock in a bit short; with doors at 7:30pm, the show didn’t start until 9pm and we were back outside by around 10:15pm. But then again, Fort Minor only ever had the one album, so what else could he have done? And to be honest, most of what Mike played turned out to be remixes of it anyway, which is not a bad thing at all. The crowd certainly seemed pleased throughout, with only words of praise being heard at the end.
In a final demonstration of the sincerity of his thankfulness to the crowd, Shinoda spent the last few minutes of his time after the final song ‘Remember The Name’ simply walking down the front of the crowd shaking hands with everyone, and I mean everyone, that stuck out their own paw. It put a smile on my face just seeing that act alone, something that I personally haven’t seen in many years of attending live shows. I went to the show expecting to see some old favourites played live, but what I ended up experiencing was something far better than that. There was something warm, close and genuine about the whole event, like everyone in that room had experienced something very special and unique (not something commonly heard after a hip-hop gig). If it took Mike 10 years to get this show done, then I’d gladly wait another 10 more for something as polished and startlingly honest as this. Thank you Mike, we’ll see you again in a decade.