Rage Against the Machine Reviews

Chicago, All State Arena, 11/26/99
"Music is Rage's Protest Medium"
by Brad Cawn (Chicago Tribune)
Transcribed by Matt Hannigan(The0zzman@aol.com)

Politics schmolitics--the Rage Against the Machine you think you know, the polemics you think you understand takes a back seat when this band wants to kick out the jams.

    On the warpath in a 75-minute blitzkrieg on the Allstate Arena, the most popular and arguably the best rock band in the country spoke little and rocked lots, the music the protest medium: Zack de La Rocha's activist poetry filled in for sloganeering, and the staccato rhythms and spastic guitar bursts brought the noise.

    Amid a barren stage, it seemed only the shadows of the quartet loomed over the 14,000 happily sweating bodies.

    But what titanic figures this band has become, gyrating and pulsating through their battle hymns as if the very fabric of this country were coming undone-and they were the ones pulling at its threads.  They sauntered and swung between abrasive laments on genocide("Testify") and imperialism("Bulls on Parade") with bruising strength and a no-fear declaration of anger, letting "Cut Like a Bomb" so appropriately capture the rage with which they played their music Friday.

    The drums were hit that much harder, de la Rocha's outbursts raised fists that much higher, Tom Morello's bullet-praying guitar roared more effectively--such is the explosive impact Limp Bizkit wishes it had.

    The bombastic push was the result of the burgeoning rhythm section, as bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk stepped up to provide the massive underbelly to the thrust of the signature riffs and political rants.  The band grooved up with the confidence and sweeping gestures of rock giants and the fierce emotion of latter-day Mcs: Imagine a Led Zeppelin post-Public Enemy's 1989 landmark, "It takes a Million..." and you're getting close--huge, sprawling, intense.

    That gave the band's centerpiece, guitarist Morello, a platform to explore textural directions with his instrument in addition to spewing massive riffage.  He's now just as willing to take the guitar out of his guitar playing on what-the-heck-did-that-sound-like solos of "Bombtrack" as he is to revel in the arena-size bite of "Sleep Now in the Fire."

    On "Know Your Enemy," he was a little of both; his gigantic shards of power chords and noise skronk sounded as if he was at once kneeling at Jimi Hendrix's pillar as much as if he wanted to burn the temple down.

    The barnstorming encore of the band's hits("Freedom," "Killing in the Name") might have conveyed the strange bedfellows that protest rock and commercial success make.  "Battle" debuted at No. 1 earlier this month, but made a debate, philosophical or otherwise, on the band's possible hypocrisy seem moot.

    For one hour anyway, the sonic firestorm on display seemed to silence everybody's opinions--Rage included.

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