Bizkit's tour de force

Concert: Limp Bizkit, playing tonight at Patriot Center, earned its popularity performance by performance.

July 20, 1999|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

Limp Bizkit is all over the place right now.

Walk into a CD shop, and practically the first thing you see is a massive display of the hip-hop-meets-hard-rock band's new disc, "Significant Other." The best-selling album in America at the moment, it nudged aside the Backstreet Boys' pop-happy "Millennium" three weeks ago and shows no sign of vacating the top spot on the Billboard charts.

Head over to the magazine racks, and there's beaucoups de Bizkit there, too. Singer Fred Durst and the boys stare out from the front of Spin, while the cover of Guitar World features only Durst and guitarist Wes Borland (whose eyes, eerily enough, appear to be all pupil). There are also big Bizkit stories in Rolling Stone, Request and Entertainment Weekly.

Meanwhile, the group is on MTV almost as much as some of the VJs and is playing to packed houses across the country on its current tour (which arrives at the Patriot Center tonight). Obviously, the Bizkit is hot.

All of which may leave you thinking, "OK, if these guys are so big, how come I've never heard of them?"

Mainly because, in an age when most popular recording acts climb the charts quickly on the strength of a catchy, well-crafted single, Limp Bizkit made its name the old-fashioned way: by touring and touring and touring.

Limp Bizkit started touring almost immediately after the release of its first album, "Three Dollar Bill, Y'All," in 1997, and kept at it for the better part of two years. But the band's hit-the-road-and-hit-it-hard approach wasn't a matter of marketing strategy.

Simply put, the Bizkit's first album was pretty limp.

"Our first record really isn't that good," admits Durst. "It was just a rushed, muddy thing. We wrote it in six days, recorded it in a month. We had no clue."

Limp Bizkit's early days had an almost soap opera-ish cast to them. There were conflicts between Durst and Borland that led to the guitarist leaving the band for a time; there was a van crash that nearly killed the group; there was a record deal the band walked away from; there was the break-up and the reconciliation.

It was high drama played out in low dives, but it was worth it. Because that was how the band found its sound and began to build an audience.

"Something happens with us five people together," says Durst. "If we had a different member, I don't think we'd be like we are. We just vibe off each other in an incredible way, and it's really powerful."

It helps that each of the five members brings something unique to the group. Drummer John Otto, for instance, started out as a jazz musician, while his cousin, bassist Sam Rivers, had been playing in a thrash band when Durst recruited him for Limp Bizkit. DJ Lethal, the group's turntablist, was originally in the white rap trio House of Pain, while guitarist Borland was an art school student who had been home recording what he describes as "a lot of bizarre stuff."

With Durst in front, half rapping and half singing, the band's sound covers a lot of ground. "There's melody in the hip-hop, and there's a lot of swing to it," says Durst. "And then, when we go heavy, we kick in like a full rock [band]."

But it wasn't just the band's sound that turned heads -- it was also its stage show.

When Limp Bizkit landed an opening slot on the Ozzfest in 1997, the band climbed out of a giant toilet onstage. In '98, when it joined Korn's Family Values tour, it had a giant spaceship and break-dancers. "We just think of crazy things, and we put it together," explains Durst. "Where the ideas come from, I have no idea."

Visuals are very important to the band. "We don't really put on an act onstage," says Borland. "I mean, I wear some really crazy [stuff] onstage, because I'm a visual artist, too, and I really have a problem with going onstage just looking like myself. I think it's boring.

"I'd rather wear a funny suit and paint my face yellow and have big black contact lenses."

Still, what first got the band national attention wasn't its look, but its behavior. During their stint with Ozzfest, members of the band were charged with inciting to riot, after Durst urged fans to climb over barricades and come up to the stage.

After a recent show in St. Paul, Durst was arrested and charged with assault after kicking a security man the singer claimed was beating up one of the Limp Bizkit crew.

Then there's the band's own penchant for violence. Although Limp Bizkit is generally pretty serene onstage, every now and then something will snap, and the group will start smashing its gear. "If we're having a good show, we don't break anything," says Borland. But when things go wrong, or the equipment fails, or there's trouble with the stage, frustration sets in.

"You hit a certain point, and you just become violent," says Borland. "Not necessarily toward people. But if we're having a bad show, stuff starts getting demolished."

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