Rage in Salt Lake City at the 'E' Center, Nov. 23rd, 1999
By Lance Buchi
I left at 4 o'clock to pick up the table, banners, and the pile of Mumia Abu-Jamal related flyers we were to be handing out at the show. We stopped at JB's Family Restaraunt to eat some food before the show, but were distracted to realize that cities are not as stable as we had always percieved them, and that Salt Lake City is basically just a pile of garbage laying itself on the desert of Utah. Employees at JB's were terrifying, and we decided to leave. Traffic was a big problem, and while listening to NPR, it was concluded that we are living Orwell's "1984", and something must be done.
We arrived at the show and met with Matt Johnson who would get us around all night. He was putting together a video that will eventually make it's way onto www.RATM.com in one form or another. (If you ever see a shot of a dreadlocked kid with a green hooded sweatshirt carrying a table backstage, that's me.) Tim Commerford walked through the corridor we were being held in (cops wouldn't initially let us in for undisclosed reasons), and told arena personnel to chill out, and quit hassling him. Finally, we were let in and set up our table. The doors opened and we were greeted with Rage fans who were semi-interested in the cause. There were no problems. Gangstarr played, and we remained outside. After Gangstarr finished, I let someone else take a shift at the Mumia coalition table and decided to make my way up front to see Rage.
Rage came out, and Zack said, "We are indeed Rage Against the Machine from Los Angeles, California" and they started Testify. They played basically the same songs as the rest of the tour - a good combination of material from all three albums. The crowd was very energetic, and full of enthusiastic youths. Tom was more animated than usual, acting goofy at times, and Zack was simply terrifying. During "Sleep Now in the Fire" while the lyrics work, "There is no other pill to take, so swallow the one, that makes you ill" - Zack had a pretty high pitched scream going - much different from the album version. Tom hits a different note during the verse of that song when it's played live that adds a feeling of certain "urgency" to everything. During Vietnow, at the lyric, "Is all the world jails and churches?", Zack began to repeat the line, "And churches..." over and over. He repeated it at least 6 times, and had a look of pure disgust in his eyes, as he flipped off the crowd. I didn't realize his reference to the largely-LDS population of Salt Lake for a couple of seconds, but when I did, it was much like the sun hitting my eyes after sleeping in darkness for days. Before playing "No Shelter", Zack said a few words: "They say that music and politics don't mix. They say that you can't speak about social issues in a musical environment. I say there's no shelter here..." Zack opened his arms towards the stage while singing, "...they got you searchin for the thin line between entertainment and war..." to signify Rage's music as weaponry. The encore started with "War Within a Breath" - which lacked the first measures of each verse ("Every official that comes in...", etc) and ended with Killing in the Name. The closure to Freedom was the climax for me, however, because the lights flashed black and white, and the stage was pure chaos. For some reason, I found myself comparing Rage to a soft, wholesome performance like Sarah McLaughlan - and I realized that part of why Rage is a better mainstream band than anything else, is because they have truth on their side, and when one is engulfed in truth, their intensity is unsurpassed. Rage is insane during moments like the closure of "Freedom". Zack did say, "Freedom...for Mumia..." instead of the usual "Freedom...yeah, right..." It was a very nice touch, and I hope people caught it.
The show finished, and we occupied the table once again to answer questions and hopefully get some people involved with the local movement. Afterwards, Matt led my friend and I into a cheesy "VIP room". We waited there for a few minutes, wondering what the hell was going on, when I looked over to realize that Tom Morello was in a corner talking to some people the entire time. I didn't like the "professional" way everything was set up, and the band members were walking around doing "rounds" it seemed like. I doubt they enjoyed this form of communicating. I talked to Zack briefly about why I was there, and about Mumia - but it was a crowded room, indeed. As we left the parking lot, there were psychotic teenage girls at the gate who were crying to meet the band. I was indeed terrified.
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