Rage Against the Machine Reviews

Rage benefit concert for Mumia Abu-Jamal: January 28th, 1999


    Bulls on Parade
    Know Your Enemy
    Down Rodeo
    Bullet in the Head
    Mic Check
    Ghost of Tom Joad
    No Shelter

    Killing in the Name

Review by: J. Moreno

The event started at 4:00 as far as Rage was concerned as they held a press conference; all of Rage was there, all 3 Beastie Boys & the lead singer for Bad Religion.   Massive, massive media coverage on this event especially here in the east; this was the headlining story in every local TV station & from what I hear this went National as well & made it on to CNN.  Morello did something his good at; charming the press & getting his point out; the concert ain't about Mumia being guilty or not it's about him being given a fair trial; justice; if the opposition felt Mumia was guilty why not give him another trial anyway?.  Zack De La Rocha made a point that it was ironic that the Pope had just yesterday called for an end to the death penalty; & yet there were people outside the concert screaming for blood.   Mumia death supporters claimed some victory due to what they said was 2,000 returned tickets but Zack argued that it was actually 567.  Neverthless by the time the show would start it was SOLD OUT again. 

We showed up 2 & a half  hours before the show & only a dozen people were in front of me by the gate; but the media; the media had set up camp in the parking lot & all kinds of TV stations from around neighboring states & MTV were already out & about interviewing people.  I got interviewed for some New Jersey station; so if u live there and saw a short dood in a Public Enemy shirt on TV that was me.  I had read both sides of the story so was able to give the interviewer, who was hoping I had no idea about the case, a nice mouthful about the media being one-sided, Rage's freedom of speech & that in these artists' eyes they were simply trying to save a man's life.  I wasn't the only one though; every single person that I saw get interviewed was well informed about the case & to my surprise all gave solid answers.  We went in at 6:00 & there had been no trouble at all save for peaceful "Free Mumia" demostrators, most of the hustle & bustle as usual was from the media.  Got front row floor seats again!   right in the middle right in the front =D .  To begin the show; 2 Members of Chumbawamba came out as emcees; one guy wearing a skirt which elicited homophobic insults from the most sexually insecure boys in the crowd.  heh, but they get knocked down & then they get up again =D

It didn't take long before BLACK STAR; who happen to be my favorite Rap group of the moment; came on to a puzzled audience who mostly did not know who they were & that they would even be there.  As skilled as Mos Def & Talib Kweli are as MCs & as dope as their lyrics are; they just didn't have the juice & experience to ravel up this crowd live like I had seen Ice Cube do in FVT.  Most people just stood by & watched boringly.  When they asked who in the audience had the Black Star album I think I might've been the only one who yelled out.  Their set was mad short & even though I like them, the best they inspired me to do was bop my head a bit.  Morello says that Black Sabbath, Ozomatli & the Indigo Girls had also asked to perform but for some reasons they weren't able to; Ozomatli woud have been a stronger opening act. Nevertheless good to see Rage still keeping an eye on hard to find quality Rappers.

Old Skoolers BAD  RELIGION took the longest to set up & played a long set.  Had never seen them before, they were decent; felt more like Hard Rock with just a touch of punk, they had a surprising amount of fans in the audience, me the only song I knew was the one they closed with; "21st Century Digital Boy". 

Member of the InvisibL Skratch PikLz MIX MASTER MIKE opened up with some turntablist stylings & skratches before the rest of the BEASTIE BOYS came out. They were good as usual, but they didn't seem to be as energetic as the last time I'd seen them.  They opened with their ode to Mixmaster Mike & then kicked into "Body Movin'" & went thru a long set that consisted of almost 14 songs from all their albums.  The pit started kicking & kids started raining as soon as they came on.  MCA stopped 2 times to give a speech about why they were doing this and all the reasons they thought the case was relevant enough to support.  They said they did it for the sake of "justice" & wanted everyone to understand that they were not supporting cop-killers but justice.  they did a lot of their awesome  instrumental jammies and as usual took turns rapping to beats & played intruments equally. They put a great live show as they always do & I was glad to check them out.

While they were setting up the stage for Rage; Chumbawamba brought out a "friend" of Mumia [Pam Africa]; some lady who gave a talk about why we should all support Mumia.  A lot of people cheered; but I wonder how many of them knew the deal.

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE didn't take long to set up & come out.  I was dissapointed that they didn't open with NWA's "Fuck Tha Police" as they did in the lesser hyped concert for Mumia back in '95; but to do that would have made them look like immature amateurs in the eyes of the media.  They simply said "Good evening we're Rage Against the Machine" and then the beginning snare hit of "Bulls On Parade" kicked off their set.  Rage was once again fucken awesome;  the intensity of always & a noticeably better friendlier interaction between the band members on stage.  They played three new jammies; "Mic Check", "Hendrix" & what I think was "Maria".   In my opinion "Mic Check" was the phattest new song.  It was a funk driven Hip-Hop/Rock with funky wah wah pedals as always & crazy atmospheric echoing swooshing from the guitars as well; felt eerie & different while still sounding like a Rage track.  The rhythm section is mad tight on this one; & it feels like a Rap song while the guitars still slash on; maybe the most Hip-Hopenning song Rage has ever made; it sounded like what Limp Bizkit wish they could sound like.  On this song it wasn't a matter of Zack happening to rap on it; ZAck was spitting out crazy dope flows!!!; he was spitting out super fast rhymes like Canibus or some other amazing MC!  The best rapping I have ever seen him do; it's no longer a question of is Zack an MC; but how amazing an MC he's become.    "Hendrix" was the next best one; started out with fucked up sounding effects that are to hard to even describe, kind of  like a machine gun & bleeps & other effects mixed in.  The lyrics & music all kick in on the first beat & Zack raps on again; a lot of crunching riffs; still recognizable as a Rage track. The next new song is what I think might be "Maria"; starts of with siren-like sounding riffs & is got more Riffage than the previous 2 songs, Zack does the talking/singing thing on this one instead of Rapping.  Zack paused to thank everyone who had attended for "not being intimidated by the media" & coming to the show; then they kicked in with "No Shelter"; only the 2nd time they performed that song live, Simmering T is awesome on that electronica sounding bass line he does. 

Rage left the stage & Public Enemy's CHUCK D & PROFFESOR GRIFF came out to give what was by far the best speech of the night;

"This ain't over yet!"; Chuck's boomin' authoritative voice delivered his message loud & clear & everyone felt it; "Fear is in the air," he said. "They thought it would be a wild scene here in New Jersey, but the only wild scene is up here [onstage], because music is a more powerful communicator...There ain't no fucking color line; don't fall for that," he told the predominantly white audience. "Right is right and wrong is wrong! Free Mumia, and also free your mind; use your independent thought." 

Rage then proceeded to come out for the encore & finished off with "Killing in the Name" on which Chuck D joined them towards the end for the "fuck you I won't do what you tell me" chant.  Chuck's voice combined with Zack's, really got the place going; awesome awesome performance of the song; Zack uncorked again.    I've joked in the past that Public Enemy is Rage's daddy but it really seemed like it; as the last song ended Tom, Zack & Chuck D embraced like comrades in arms and walked off the stage together.  Public Enemy had been under fire back in the late 80s/early 90s for speaking their beliefs; just as Rage was now.

All in all it was one of the best shows of the 8 times I've seen them & it was worth the hype that it's been getting; the acts spoke with their music more than anything else & save for minor shit the crowd was good and so were the cops. 

The controversy is not over though; "A bill introduced in the New Jersey legislature Monday would give families of slain cops the state's proceeds from tonight's Rage Against the Machine concert".  This shit  just keeps on going; either way; Rage have achieved the epitome of what they had always hoped for; standing up for their beliefs & making enough noise to be heard.  This is so far their greatest victory. RATM is existentialism!

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