Rage Against the Machine Reviews

Rage Against the Machine
Live at the Worcester Centrum
November 30, 1999
By David ***** / *****

After a two-year hiatus with performances scattered in between at random intervals for various occasions, Rage Against the Machine are back and taking their kick ass live act out on the road before the end of the century. Celebrating the release of their new album The Battle of Los Angeles, Rage treat their fans to a wide array of songs from their three albums and various singles. Frontman Zack de la Rocha’s screaming voice and memorable lyrics, combined with the rest of the band’s equally screaming instruments and onstage antics, and their die hard fan base have firmly established Rage Against the Machine as one of the best live bands on the planet. Tonight’s performance in Worcester was no exception.

Those faced with the difficult task of opening for Rage were the punk rock band At the Drive-In and hip hop collective GangStarr. At the Drive-In was the first act on the bill, and have a surprisingly good onstage presence and performance. The problem is that their music doesn’t complement their live show well enough. If they did, then these guys would be headlining arenas in no time. After a quick 30-minute set, At the Drive-In hustled offstage as Gang Starr got ready to take over. The audience was surprisingly receptive to GangStarr (I had read online reviews that they had been booed mercilessly on some of the other shows on the tour), especially when they were pumping everybody up for Rage. After a 1-hour set which saw the band pay tribute to Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., diss Britney Spears, N’Sync, and the Backstreet Boys, and encouraged everybody on the floor to mosh and wave their middle fingers, GangStarr said good night, got a reasonable ovation from the crowd, and everybody was psyched for Rage.

In the 30 minutes between GangStarr and Rage, a 25-foot banner was raised on the back of the stage. The banner had the cover art of their new album, but the title was appropriately renamed "The Battle of Boston" for tonight, a practice they have done on every city of their tour so far. A couple of hundred fans with balcony seats overwhelmed the security guards on the floor and made their way into the pit through sheer force of numbers. A few fights broke out in the pit and outside of the venue between fans and security crew. The aura of hostility in that building was terrifying, added further by the police presence protesting the show because of Rage’s support of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Finally the lights dimmed, and Rage came out. The show started with de la Rocha’s trademark opening statement "Good evening. We’re Rage Against the Machine from Los Angeles, California." Then the band roared through their setlist. "Testify" kicked off their show, followed by their current hit "Guerrilla Radio." They performed songs like "People of the Sun," "Calm Like a Bomb," "Bullet in the Head," a shortened version of "The Ghost of Tom Joad," "Sleep Now in the Fire," "Born of a Broken Man," "Know Your Enemy" (during which one fan in the pit managed to get over the barricade, onto the stage, and dive back into the audience before security could get him), "No Shelter," and "War Within a Breath." Then the band ran offstage, and the fans were fired up like a mob, stomping their feet and chanting "WE WANT MORE! WE WANT MORE!" Finally Rage came back and obliged with an encore, performing the three songs which arguably got the biggest audience reaction of the night.

"Bulls On Parade" started the encore, and fans were in awe of guitarist Tom Morello’s mastery of his instrument when he performed his signature scratching solo. Afterwards, Rage did a quick mini-instrumental/improvisational tune during which de la Rocha sarcastically acknowledged the police protest outside the show. He kept firing the crowd up and putting down the police with comments like "We don’t support any kind of killers, especially not killer cops," and many fans thought that Rage were going to perform their cover of the NWA classic "F*** the Police." Alas, it was not the case, and de la Rocha dedicated the next song "Freedom" to Mumia Abu-Jamal. Instead of stopping at the end of the song, Rage went straight into their usual set closer "Killing in the Name." The song culminates with de la Rocha singing his trademark lyric "F*** you, I won’t do what you tell me," for close to two minutes while the band furiously plays their instruments and the audience responds with a sea of raised middle fingers and repeat the phrase in unison. After the song was over, Rage stepped offstage for the last time. They waved to the crowd as they headed out and everybody gave them a standing ovation.

Rage Against the Machine is one of the most popular and respected bands today. It’s not a coincidence that they’re also one of the best live bands around. It doesn’t matter if you’re down on the floor or up in the cheap seats, Rage will put on a scathing live performance that gets everybody in the building going, with all the energy of a nuclear blast. If you have an opportunity to see Rage between now and the final date of their U.S. tour on December 20, then by all means do so. They are worth every penny of your ticket and you will not be disappointed.

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