The Rage Factor
Venue: Finsbury Park
Date: June 6 2010
When I first saw Rage Against The Machine at Reading Festival 2008, the first thing I thought when their set finished was “now that, is how a band plays live”. Sunday was the second time I had seen the band, I knew what they were like live, and yet I had the exact same thought when they finished this set. Rage Against The Machine are a band who really set the bar when it comes to performing live.
In early December 2009, two people by the names Jon and Tracy Morter started a Facebook campaign to get the infamous RATM song ‘Killing In The Name’ to the UK Christmas number 1 spot, which is normally reserved for the X Factor winner that week. The campaign challenged one of the UK’s most popular television shows and one of the most powerful men in the music industry, Simon Cowell. Many people were cynical about the campaign, claiming it was impossible, dismissing it as just ‘another Facebook group’ which would have little impact, but as Christmas neared, the campaign got bigger, getting recognition and support from people such as Dave Grohl, Paul McCartney, The Prodigy, and RATM member Tom Morello. The campaign strengthened, odds for ‘Killing In The Name’ to reach number 1 were rising, and then Rage Against The Machine announced they would put on a free UK show as a victory celebration if they won. On Sunday December 20, ‘Killing In The Name’ beat X Factor winner Joe McElderry to the number 1 spot in the UK singles chart.
On June 6th, RATM fulfilled their promise of a free gig as gloomy weather and 40,000 Rage fans descended onto Finsbury Park in North London. As I entered the gig site security made me empty my pockets on a table, as a friend mentioned, it was a bit authoritarian for a Rage Against The Machine gig, then I look around the area, fairground attractions, burger fans and water that cost £2 a bottle, also seemed a bit of a capitalist affair for a Rage gig as well. On stage at the time were South Central doing a rather average DJ set, the crowd hardly seemed to care but it was adequate enough to sit in the almost sun listening to it. Next DJ set came from L’Amour La Morgue, which is Ian Watkins from lostprophets DJ/remix side project, it was surprisingly enjoyable, featuring many good mashups, I thought I was destined to dislike it, the crowd still didn’t really react, but it was a pretty decent DJ set.
At about 5.15 hardcore punk band Gallows took to the stage with a rather not great cover of ‘God Save The Queen’ by Sex Pistols, but gladly they saved their set afterwards with songs from both their albums, particular highlights being ‘In The Belly of a Shark’, ‘Abandon Ship’ and closing track ‘Orchestra of Wolves’ (which got the best response from the crowd). Singer Frank Carter was good at talking to the audience, at one point got the crowd to boo loud enough for Justin Beiber to hear when he was playing at Wembley Stadium the same day, Carter knows how to please the audience between songs.
The next support act was rapper Roots Manuva. The set was quite unexciting with not much difference between many songs, Roots lacked stage presence and the audience was mainly static throughout his set, the only song that managed to get a half decent audience response was ‘Witness the Fitness’. After the rather disappointing set from Roots Manuva, South Central came on stage to do a second DJ set before Gogol Bordello hit the stage, this time the crowd took much more notice of them, they didn’t sound too bad, but then, they crossed the line, they attempted to remix the Nirvana classic ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, which is when bottles began to be thrown, followed by South Central sticking their middle fingers up at the crowd and storming off stage.
Gogol Bordello had a decent reaction from the crowd; they got many people jumping for the first time of the day. They started off with some better known songs such as ‘Ultimate’, ‘Not A Crime’ and ‘Wonderlust King’ which all got the crowd jumping to Eugene Hutz’ energetic stage presence. Newer songs such as ‘Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher)’ and ‘Pala Tute’ fitted into the set well before they finished with fan favourite ‘Start Wearing Purple’, which had the best crowd reaction of the set. Towards the end one member of the band went to do the trademark bass drum surf, throwing the bass drum into the crowd and then struggled to get it back from fans in the crowd, this was one of the more entertaining moments.
Waiting for Rage Against The Machine to take the stage fans started to get impatient, but then the screens on the side of the stage were taken over by a cartoon version of Simon Cowell. The parody of Satan (sorry, Simon) gave a little speech concerning his displeasure of introducing a band whose success he had nothing to do with. After the introduction, the EZLN flag raised up to the sounds of prison sirens followed by Zack, Tom, Brad and Tim walking onstage. Zack addressed the audience, “Hello we are Rage Against The Machine from Los Angeles California” with a massive cheering response from the crowd, before the band immediately preceded into ‘Testify’, as soon as the first note was hit, the crowd were already bouncing like mad, showing that even 10 years after their career began, RATM fans still respond in the same great way.
The band raced through their (short) 75 minute set performing many fan favourites such as ‘Bombtrack’, ‘People of the Sun’, ‘Bulls On Parade’ and got overwhelming responses for tracks such as ‘Know Your Enemy’ and ‘Township Rebellion’. After a fantastic rendition of ‘Bullet In The Head’ the band introduce Jon and Tracey Morter on stage, to a very large applause, Tom Morello gives a little speech about the campaign and they then hand a giant check to Jon and Tracey, all the money the band made from ‘Killing In The Name’ in December, to be given to homeless charity shelter. Zack then goes on to talk about British punk bands, many of which changed the world. He talked about bands such as The Sex Pistols, The Specials, Led Zeppelin, The Jam and bands like The Clash, who changed the world, before going into a great cover of popular Clash song ‘White Riot’, with a great reception from the crowd.
The band then played ‘Guerrilla Radio’, ‘Sleep Now In A Fire’ and ‘Freedom’, by which point the crowd had got crazier than before, the mosh pits were getting bigger and more hectic, before the band retreated before their encore. The encore started with the sound of Joe McElderry’s ‘The Climb’ while the screens began to show odds at the start of December of The X Factor getting Christmas number 1, and then develops the story of the Rage Against The Machine Facebook campaign. The quotes were shown of Simon Cowell and Joe McElderry insulting the song, calling it terms such as “dreadful”, it then goes on to show the sales of ‘The Climb’ and then showed the sales for Rage, to enormous cheers from the crowd, the screen then showed the words ‘YOU made history!’, then the crowd heard the opening chords of ‘Killing In the Name’ as the band returned to the stage. This was the best performance of the song possibly ever performed in my opinion, the crowd went completly insane, this was the song that the whole concert was about, I think the band probably put a bit more effort and energy into it this night, then they ever have before.
Now that is how a band plays live. Rage Against the Machine gave a powerful, entertaining and impressive set, even if it was a bit short, and lacked fan favourite ‘Wake Up’. The show was amazing and truly special.
~ Article by Chris Fishlock