February 11, 2000
London Wembley Arena
Just another week for Rage Against The Machine, then. First, a video shoot with TV satirist [B]Michael Moore[/B] manages to close down the New York Stock Exchange for an hour...
Just another week for Rage Against The Machine, then. First, a video shoot with TV satirist Michael Moore manages to close down the New York Stock Exchange for an hour. Then, even more bizarrely, they become embroiled in the US Presidential race. Moore, again, mobilises a 100-strong "portable moshpit" to follow the campaign trail and challenge candidates to mosh. In Iowa, minor Republican Alan Keyes - as if to pull a fast one on the legions of one-time inhalers competing against him - has a go, spurred on by Moore's not entirely straight-faced promise that he will endorse anyone brave enough to mosh. George W Bush, meanwhile, tells Moore to "behave yourself and go get a real job," while Gary Bauer calls the cops and launches into a rant about the anti-police, anti-establishment band whose music is playing. It is, of course, Rage Against The Machine.
Proof, of course, that Rage's scrupulous radicalism and the apparently hedonistic response of their audience are explicitly connected - as tonight's support Asian Dub Foundation urge, "Let's see some jumping for justice." The point being that Rage Against The Machine not only harness a potent dissatisfaction with everything - the sacred tenet of rock'n'roll - they channel all that frustration to positive ends. In theory: mosh, absorb, go home and check out Freedom Fighter Of The Month on the brilliant ratm.com.
Needless to say, it helps that they sound phenomenal. Three albums into their career and with the possibly less stimulating likes of Limp Bizkit their dubious cultural legacy, Rage Against The Machine continue, amazingly, to make rap-rock sound like a fantastic idea. The backdrop at Wembley on the opening night of their European tour has been modified to read, 'The Battle Of London', but there are no attempts to engage with, say, the moral bankruptcy of the Blair government here.
Instead, the text is provided by Zack De La Rocha's furious dissertations-cum-lyrics, the righteousness propelled by the brute power of their music. This, essentially, is heavy metal purged of every last indulgence, reinvented as a supercharged compadre of ascetic hardcore. There's no space for longueurs, for the kind of self-loathing, self-analysing and self-aggrandisement that dogs their peers: everything is focused. Even the guitar solos - where Tom Morello flips from Jimmy Page wallow to a brilliantly innovative barrage of abstract glitches and sirens in 'People Of The Sun', to a perfect replica of scratch DJing during 'Bullet In The Head' - are short. This is music with a point - to inform, to excite, to inspire - that doesn't waste time getting there. It begins with De La Rocha's statement of activism, 'Testify', and ends, inevitably, with 'Killing In The Name Of', a generation's pledge of non-allegiance, revolution built out of base negative energy. The kind of reductive but articulate politicking with a cause and an effect that Primal Scream would do well to study, in fact. Somewhere in the moshpit maybe, just maybe, someone's learning to vote with their feet.
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