It’s been 11 years since Rage Against the Machine played a show.
The band’s return on Saturday to a packed Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy could not have come a moment too soon.
It should happen in 2020; The reunion tour was scheduled to precede the US presidential election. The tour kicked off two years later than planned due to COVID-19 when the state of the country was still a dumpster fire, and Rage and her fans have a growing number of issues to get excited about.
And one of their biggest targets on Saturday, unsurprisingly, was the US Supreme Court, specifically the overturning of the Roe v. Wade on June 24th.
“Forced birth in a country that is the only prosperous country in the world without guaranteed national-level paid parental leave,” read the screen, as Zack de La Rocha growled “yes” and demanded “freedom.” over the accelerating rhythm of guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk.
“Forced birth in a country where black midwives suffer two to three times the maternal mortality rate than white midwives,” the captions continued. “Forced birth in a country where gun violence is the number one killer of children and young people.”
And then in capital letters: “ABORT THE SUPREME COURT.”
It was the most specific political statement the band made on Saturday. Nobody in the band made any speeches during their 90-minute set. But they channeled their anger through their visceral music, which sounded as haunting as ever — despite the fact that none of the 18 songs touched on Saturday were created in the 21st century.
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In fact, one of the few things De La Rocha said Saturday outside of her singing or rap duties was “Turn that bass up” at the start of the night’s second song, “People of the Sun,” one of five tracks that were played at the Alpine from the second album “Evil Empire” from 1996.
Remember, the bass, the drums, the guitar, the screams of De La Rocha, everything was really loud for the opening number ‘Bombtrack’ – appropriately the first song on the band’s 30-year-old self-titled debut album, released when they were seven Tracks made up the bulk of the setlist – and you could see the energy surging from the stage through the explosive mosh pit to the sea of people atop the hill at the outdoor amphitheater.
But the band wanted to push the volume, the anger, everything to the brink.
For “Bulls on Parade” – which came right after “People of the Sun” Commerford’s defining bass rumbles were very loud and practically vibrated in your chest – Morello stopped his charging guitar to vigorously run his fingers down her neck, den Sound resemble record scratches.
Morello became even more flashy from there, shredding the guitar with his teeth for the “Bullet in the Head” that followed. For “Testify,” one of five songs performed Saturday from Rage’s final 1999 original studio album, The Battle of Los Angeles, Morello ripped out the guitar cord and slapped the end in his palm, creating prickly squeaks, which sounded like Morse code being sent to an alien planet.
This guitar stunt featuring Morello’s chompers would be the grand finale for virtually any band. For Rage, it was just a fleeting climax for an early number, with Wilk’s drums brilliantly simmering the intensity before the band (and fans) gravitated to an even more intense close to De La Rocha’s murderous screams of “A bullet in the head.” .”
As good as Rage was, well, frenzied, the band knew that quieter, seething moments were just as powerful. And in that regard, De La Rocha has been a critical channel.
Sure, the band’s doomsday preacher unleashed screams of hell, stomping across the stage, punching the air, banging his head. (His hair is now a touch trimmer, the most obvious physical difference between the band from 2011.)
But De La Rocha was just as captivating as he crouched next to Wilk’s drum kit and softly repeated “I think I listened a shot” over and over during the edgy bridge of “Wake Up.” That made the ending all the more intense as the frontman rose to his feet to roar the song’s title over and over for the grand finale, before cutting through the noise with these haunting closing lyrics: “How long? Not long/’Cause what you reap is what you sow.”
There was only one song where a more reserved De La Rocha didn’t work, a surprisingly disappointing “Sleep Now in the Fire”. His misplaced smile, static stage presence, looser vocal delivery, lack of the recording’s climactic scream all detracted from the musical inferno conjured up by the De La Rocha bandmates.
But for the show’s final number, Killing in the Name — her reaction to the 1991 Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King — De La Rocha sounded even more angry than on the original, seemingly stunned by police brutality to black people he sang about 30 years ago is still happening today.
And for the performance at the Alpine, De La Rocha slightly adjusted the lyrics towards the end, turning the song into a broader condemnation of systemic racism, adding that there are some “politicians,” not just “some people who have power.” , which are also ” Burn Crosses.”
There hasn’t been original Rage music for 23 years. As of this weekend, there hasn’t been a Rage show since 2011.
But judging by the band’s urgent comeback concert on Saturday, it’s clear they feel there is still so much work to be done.
Run the jewels remarkably with opening set
Probably the last song you’d ever expect to hear on a Rage show is “We Are the World,” but hip-hop supergroup Run the Jewels had a blast using the ballad as their walk-up music 45-minute set.
“Look,” El-P said at some point to his rhyming partner, Killer Mike. “There are 30,000 people who have had their tickets for two years.”
They repeatedly expressed their gratitude for opening for Rage, and they played like they’d been training for that set every day for the past three years. Her throbbing delivery and incessant bragging on “Legend Has It,” “Close Your Eyes,” and other Jewels gems was complemented by rigorous beats and piercing turntable chops delivered by her Madison-born DJ Trapstar (real name Gabe Moskoff). became.
This was mostly a fun dance party peppered with lots of amusing dad jokes, but towards the end of the set El-P dedicated a song to “People who have unjustly lost their lives at the hands of people paid to protect them.” “.
The song was the sobering, mind-blowing “Walking in the Snow” from 2020’s album RTJ4.
“Every day on the evening news, they feed you fear for free,” Killer Mike rapped. “And you’re so stunned that you watch the cops strangle a man like me until my voice goes from a scream to a whisper, ‘I can’t breathe.'”
The song was actually written before George Floyd was murdered — and a sentiment that tragically hasn’t lost an inch of its relevance.
“It doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is, it doesn’t matter what your gender is, it doesn’t matter what your ethnicity is, it’s always us versus them,” Killer Mike said after the song. “Always us against the (powerful) mighty ones.”
For at least one night, Run the Jewels, speaking truth to power, made the “we” feel stronger.
- Aside from the criticism during the Supreme Court show and the overthrow of Roe v. Wade, Rage previously announced that $475,000 earned from ticket sales for charity at the Alpine Show and two performances at the United Center in Chicago would be donated to reproductive rights organizations in Wisconsin and Illinois.
- Along with the 17 originals that Rage played on Saturday (including a few snippets), the band also delivered a riveting cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad” from their 2000 covers album Renegades. It was also the first time since that year that they have performed the cover live.
- Rage had an unorthodox song choice to help fans calm down as they exited the venue – Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
- The Rage Show had several simple, cinematic, dialog-free video clips that kept the tension of the night alive and were often played when the band briefly stepped offstage for a breather. Among the images: a border guard posing menacingly with a barking German shepherd; an El Paso police car on fire in slow motion; a boy in a ski mask kneeling in front of a bull; and a blindfolded boy smashed a piñata that looked like an ICE agent.
- At the start of the Run the Jewels set, Killer Mike said he was a Packers fan, which drew equal cheers from the Wisconsin crowd and boos from the large crowd of Bears fans at the show.
- This was my first Alpine Valley since 2019 – this is also the historic East Troy venue’s first season in two years. And of course it’s a bear to climb the hills, and the seat pan and stage are relics compared to most contemporary large venues, but it’s still a nice, special place to see a show, especially when the weather is like that was glorious like Saturday night. Remember, if you’re going to see a show at the Alpine this summer, getting in and out is an ordeal. I left the summer festival at 5pm on Saturday and didn’t park at the Alpine until 7pm and I spent the last 45 minutes driving less than two miles to get into the venue. I didn’t even bother to leave the parking lots until 12:30am – a full 90 minutes after getting back to my car – and traffic was still crawling at this late hour.
1. “Bomb Trail”
2. “People of the Sun”
3. “Cops Parade”
4. “Bullet in the Head”
6. “Tire Me Out”
7. “Wake Up”
8. “Guerrilla Radio”
9. “Without a Face”
10. “Know Your Enemy”
11. “Calm Like a Bomb”
12. “Now sleep in the fire”
13. “War in One Breath”
14. “The Ghost of Tom Joad” (cover by Bruce Springsteen)
15. “Liberty”/”Township Rebellion”
16. “Killing in the Name”