Hawaiian audiences generally go to concerts not so much to hear music or political opinions, but to see a good show. This is, after all, the land of sunshine and good times.
Political rockers Rage Against the Machine did not disappoint on Tuesday night, turning out a performance that was highlighted by singer Zack De La Rocha's bounding leaps and Tom Morello's innovative guitar work, which at times sounded like a DJ scratching a record.
"I really liked that you could feel the aloha spirit in such a big crowd, and my favorite Rage song was one that I had never heard before tonight," said Elizabeth Fries, 21, one of the more than 1,000 fans who attended the show at the Blaisdell Arena.
The song to which she was referring, "Broken Man," is scheduled for Rage's upcoming yet-to-be-titled third LP. The song alternates between mellow, clean verses and a huge, pounding chorus.
Since the concert took place in Honolulu, where large acts don't often play, the audience was made up of a wide range of islanders and tourists. The floor was overtaken by moshers while the more sedate concert-goers seized the balconies. Some fans began crowd-surfing before the lights even went down.
Rage Against the Machine opened with "Bombtrack", the first song on their 1992 self-titled debut. It was followed by the Grammy-nominated "Bulls on Parade", from Evil Empire (1996). Before launching into "No Shelter," from the "Godzilla" soundtrack, De La Rocha exclaimed, "If war is entertainment, then entertainment can be war," while the audience clapped along to the beat laid down by Morello and drummer Brad Wilk.
As Rage segued into the third song in their set, the typically tight-lipped De La Rocha stepped to the mic. Perhaps prompted by the happenings at the Woodstock '99 rock festival in upstate New York where reports were rampant of topless women being groped, fondled and allegedly raped by other fans in mosh pits the singer called out to his audience.
"I see some women who just want to dance and have fun, and if any suckas out there want to disrespect them, you know the way to the door," said De La Rocha, whose band played as part of a trio of aggressive Woodstock performances July 24, sandwiched between Limp Bizkit and Metallica.
Responding to the singer's comments, the crowd cheered and resumed dancing and celebrating.
Since the release of their eponymous debut album seven years ago, Rage Against the Machine has blended lyrics of angst and emotional trauma with a cathartic mix of Black Sabbath-like metal riffs and sonic crush to become one of the world's foremost arena bands.
When their second album, Evil Empire, was released two years ago, the band called attention to numerous political causes, preaching a radical ideology to millions of listeners. Their just-completed new album is poised for a November release.
Later in the show Tuesday, the band played "Freedom," the group's first song to get heavy airplay on MTV. Adding drama, Rage slowed down verses, and then segued into an abbreviated version of "Township Rebellion."
The band closed its set with "Killing in the Name." Some in the crowd left the arena screaming the words of De La Rocha, "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me," into the humid Hawaiian air.
If nothing else, the band demonstrated its live potential for energy and intimacy.
Morello recently told SonicNet Music News, "Of all the things that bands do, what we can do best is play live. This is a band that can communicate to an audience in a pretty large venue, and that can create the kind of intimacy that some bands can approximate only in a smaller setting."
By Eric Seidl from SonicNet news archives