Roseland Ballroom - Aug. 15, 1996, New York
At about the same time Bob Dole was accepting the GOP's presidential nomination some 3,000 miles away, Rage against the machine drop-kicked People of the Sun, a song about the original California natives, whom some Republicans would like to conain in Mexico behind a Berlin Wall. Singer Zack de la Rocha, himself a Mexican American, sang the chorus's promis that his people's time is "coming back around again" with conviction about the future that made Dole's nostalgic vision seem euthanasia-bound. With the packed audience - Rage sole out five nights at the 3,200 capacity venue - thrashing to the band's unmistakable, unapologetically leftist anthems, it was clear that at least some of the youth cast a dissenting ballot that night.
Rage's second album, Evil Empire, may be the most politically radical album ever to hit No. 1 on the pop charts. Certainly much of the band's appeal lies in it's musical fusion of hard-core, heavy metal and hip-hop. With a roots apporach to instrumentation - true to their name, Rage uses no synthesizers, samplers, tape loops, or drum programs - they create sounds for a pluralistic future, for a world where Run-DMC and Aerosmith, and Public Enemy and Anthrax, never stop jamming together. Rage's monster riffs make you want to headbang, hip sway, and play air guitar all at once; at times, that seemed to be precisely what was happening in Roseland's giant, churning mosh pit.
Yet fans are clearly drawn to Rage's politics. The largely white male ten and college audience responded most to "Killing in the Name" from Rage's first album, singing along and giving the finger on the line, "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!" Evil Emipre is more sophisticated, both musically and lyrically, than the previous album. But even if fans couldn't relate personally to a song like "Down Rodeo," they slammed their concordance home as de la Rocha rasped, "So now I'm rollin' down Rodeo with a shotgun/These people ain't seen a brown-skin man since their grandparents bought one."
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