Rage are back!…kind of.
Rage Against The Machine in their original form, melded rock and rap with a fiery anti establishment spirit that was pure punk rock. In the live arena, no one could touch them. So when it was announced last year that the original members were continuing without original MC Zack DeLa Rocha, and in his stead would be Hip Hop heavy weights Chuck D and B Real, many eyebrows were raised. Would it be as good as the old days? would it be better? Would it be better than Audioslave? After their first London performance the answers would seem to be almost, no and oh yes.
DJ Lord opens the set with some deft turntable work, it’s clear he knows his audience, mixing together Slayer, Nirvana and Metallica with a smorgasbord of old school Hip Hop. It’s not long for Prophets of Rage to take the stage however, fists raised in unison, it’s clear that the spirit is still alive and well. Pummelling straight into Public Enemy’s ‘Prophets of Rage’ and then ‘Testify‘ by Rage Against The Machine, the template for the night is set. Sweaty Intense Classics, front to back.
The core members of Rage Against The Machine play like they’ve never been away. Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk provide a rhythm section that can go from straight up funk to white line punk aggression in a heartbeat. While Guitarist Tom Morello steals the show more than once, with his versatility. Avant garde noise solos, fluid jazz inspired runs, and old school Deep Purple Riffs are all present with much more up his sleeves. His inventiveness is simply a joy to watch.
Chuck D and B Real are no less entertaining, constantly moving and supporting each other’s rhymes. Basically Chuck D sometimes gets to be Sen Dog, B Real sometimes gets to be Flava Flav, and they both get to be Zack DeLa Rocha. Which is where it could have possibly all gone wrong. DeLaRocha’s delivery was famously full of piss and vinegar and well, Rage. But if Chuck D’s statesman like baritone, and B Real’s nasal quirkiness don’t quite fit that mould it doesn’t matter. The crowd knows every chorus and the place goes off. I have never felt Brixton Academy this hot before as the heat from the crowd jumping in unison builds and builds.
There are minor pauses, there’s an old school hip hop middle section as DJ Lord leads the two MCs in a battle over their back catalogues; ‘Insane in the Brain’, ‘Bring the Noise’ and more classics.
There’s also a poignant tribute to Chris Cornell, as his former Audioslave bandmates play ‘Like a Stone’ as an instrumental. The stage in darkness, save for one unattended spot lit mic stand, with the crowd singing the song in his absence. It’s just one of many ‘hair on the back of your neck ‘ moments from the evening.
As the night draws to a close B Real says “These are dangerous times, and dangerous times call for dangerous songs, and this song is the most dangerous of them all”. The song is of course ‘Killing In The Name Of’ and it feels as relevant and righteous as ever. The Prophets of Rage are here, and they’re still fighting the good fight. It was never going to be as good as the first time, it never is, but tonight was more than enough. Awesome show.
Photo Credit: Mark Williams