Rage in Toronto
It's a frosty Monday night here in Toronto, five days after a minor earthquake, and suitably chilling a night for the experience everyone seems to be seeking. Student activists hand out information on government cutbacks: inside, various tables are set up, each with their own social causes - pro-choice, free Mumia Abu-Jamal, etc.. Bulletins are taped along the walls, telling fans to "rage safe" in the mosh pit. There are problems with tickets as people have seats behind the cordoned off area, causing headaches for both parties. The PA plays Clash and Sex Pistols songs, which somehow isn't appropriate.
After a couple of nondescript warm-up bands have done their thang for the benefit of the filling venue, a battalion of roadies emerges. Ushers are using walkie-talkies, discussing the seating problem. Tables with the Gang Starr logo are placed at the front and triangular bass speakers are placed to either side of the tables. The lights dim and Guru starts spouting off about Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, how they're going to drop the needle, and how every motherfucker in the house should scream. More of the extended Gang Starr entourage come on and off the stage. Behind them, huge fluorescent water guns are cocked and ready to go. Hands are waved in the air by people who just don't care. To show love, the audience is encouraged to give the middle finger.
The set is over, and a complete stage change occurs. Banners from the rafters sway from huge fans. Crowd surfing starts. One surfer is feisty and has his shirt ripped off. He returns a second time and his shorts are removed, but not before throwing a few punches at the suspects, who let him drop to the concrete. While the drum set is checked, a huge roar starts, and the fans in the stands rush the floor. Like the running of the bulls in Spain, some are more adept than others, who fall on the concrete floor. Security guards are shoved and they shove back, ejecting a few.
Finally, Rage Against The Machine appear. "We're Rage Against The Machine from Los Angeles, California" Zack de la Rocha announces, somewhat superfluously, and 'Testify' opens the set. The moshing and energy are contagious but the group are dogged by problems with the sound : the vocals and Morello's guitar are almost inaudible. 'Guerilla Radio' keeps the pace at a frenzy. 'Bullet In The Head' and a cover of Bruce Springsteen's 'Ghost Of Tom Joad' are other brief highs. De la Rocha looks angry and serious - maybe like what Bob Marley would've been if his mum had pissed in his cereal each morning. The band turns their back to the crowd after each song, and there is no banter at all. Fluids are swallowed, throat sprays taken, sweat wiped off. Security is lax as a guy jumps onstage to dive into the crowd.
The encore, like much of the night, is slow building, with 'Killing In The Name Of' the closer. The house lights shine bright for the "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me" lines as de la Rocha stands and watches. The band leaves and the crowd slowly counts bumps and bruises. Many on the floor hold aching body parts and check for blood. Their rage has left for the evening.
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