PETALING JAYA, July 22 — It was Oct 15, 2003 Linkin Park performed in Malaysia for the first time in a landmark concert.
For Chester Bennington, it kicked off a distinct relationship with the country that would determine their return 10 years later.
Jojo Events founder Tan Sri Syed Yusof Syed Nasir was the catalyst for the start of something special.
“I was shocked when I received the message early yesterday morning from a friend who was an ardent Linkin Park fan,” said Syed Yusof, popularly known in the industry as Jojo.
“To me, he’s so talented. It’s a pity.”
“But I’m glad we managed to bring him here. He was very excited to come.”
Malaysia served as Chester’s introduction to Asia, the first country he visited in this region.
Chester chose Kuala Lumpur specifically on the premise it would attract fans from neighbouring countries.
“During the show Chester asked the crowd to shout out if they were from Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and everywhere,” explained Jojo.
“They were all here to see him.”
Unbeknownst to over 20,000 music lovers who packed Stadium Merdeka to see the nu-metal group in their prime, getting Linkin Park to Malaysia was far from smooth sailing.
They travelled as one of the United States’ biggest rock groups at that time and authorities were reluctant to grant their entry.
Despite massive promotion campaigns, publicity and tickets sold out, relations with the West were still strained after the 9/11 New York attacks in 2001.
Running the same week Linkin Park were slated to play was the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in Putrajaya.
The clash of events sparked fears of protests.
The band already departed the US and were just hours away from touching down in Kuala Lumpur, unaware someone within the licensing authority tried to stop the show from happening.
On the ground, Jojo scrambled, sought the assistance of then-Inspector General Police Tan Sri Norian Mai to secure their permit at the 11th hour.
“I’m grateful Tan Sri allowed the show to go on,” said Jojo.
Jojo, who has brought the likes of Michael Jackson, Sting and Ricky Martin to Malaysia, greeted Chester and band at the airport.
“He was a friendly person and asked how the ticket sales were — that’s a normal thing.
“We took them to a renowned fusion restaurant in the city that night and they were very excited about the food.”
Chester was particularly taken by cendol. It was just one of a number of cultural facets that piqued his interest.
Fans packed the lobby of Concorde hotel in anticipation of their hero’s arrival, Chester.
“It was crowded outside and in the lobby,” recalled hotel’s marketing director Julini Yusof.
“We had (then-Philippines president Gloria) Arroyo here at the same time. It was very busy,” she said.
“The band made time to sign autographs and meet the staff. It was a small time frame.”
Jojo remembered Chester as a “softly-spoken, gentle” artiste who stood among the legion of music acts he has welcomed to Malaysia over the years.
“He was worried about the thunderstorm (before the show),” Jojo recounted with a fond smile.
“He asked: ‘What will happen to the fans?’
“I said: ‘It’s okay, we have ‘rain doctors’ here.
“He was fascinated with the bomoh! He asked me ‘What do they do?’”
Legend goes the bomoh worked his magic as the rain kept off during the entire performance.
“After the show, it poured. He actually believed the bomoh worked, he told me later.”
Others who got close to Chester during his stay were compelled by his persona.
In person, he was a heartwarming tourist and gentleman.
On stage, he burst into life, “something else” who leapt into the air with passion and ferocious vocals that will see him revered as a true rock icon.
Linkin Park blew the roof off Stadium Merdeka with an unmatched intensity.
“The magnitude of the show was not only measured by the turnout which had gathered by late afternoon, but also by the current standing of the Southern Californian act as the toast of the nu-metal genre.” reported Malay Mail’s Joe Lee the following day.
In 2013, Chester selected Kuala Lumpur as the only spot he would appear on his return to the region 10 years later. Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore all missed out again.
The show’s announcement was made on the band’s official Facebook page in Bahasa Malaysia.
Jojo was gutted over Chester’s death.
“There are some things we don’t know why they happen in life. Chester had so much to contribute.
“As a composer, he was fantastic.”