Rage Against the Machine
Watching Muse on stage at L.A. Rising, it is difficult to imagine any group of three people being more thrilled about making sound, not just music. Most of those thoughts were laid to rest a mere 45 minutes later, after Muse’s set at the event.
As the Olympic torch was lit atop the north end of the Coliseum, a video montage of Rage Against the Machine’s 20-year history announced their arrival on stage. Ending with the phrase from “Guerilla Radio,” “What better place than here, what better time than now?” the four men entered, beginning the slow furious build to the beginning of “Testify.”
As the quartet played “Bombtrack,” a group of fans took the words of the chorus literally, starting a bonfire amidst the floor admission crowd, using white T-shirts and cardboard pizza boxes. When the flames crept to a noticeable level, visible to security lining the floor area, on-site fire crews came and extinguished them to a chorus of heavy boos. Five songs later, a fan used a dollar bill to ignite a second fire as the band played “Bullet in the Head.”
Meanwhile, up on stage, the band was proving why it had gained such a significant live following over the past two decades. During one early song, lead singer Zack de la Rocha took a momentary break from his cross-stage bounding and took a drink from his cup. The stage lighting shrouded him in dark blue light. As he sat, seething, waiting to continue, he looked like a fighter in his corner, waiting for someone to announce round 2. The members of his tag team were in full form, chief among them the legendary guitarist Tom Morello, soloing on his signature instrument, complete with the handwritten words “ARM THE HOMELESS” scrawled in red capital case letters.
Stripped of their initial supplies, audience members created a third fire using strips of the carpet covering the field underneath. As the group hit the end of “Wake Up,” de la Rocha took advantage of his only opportunity to give a direct address to the crowd.
“I travel around this city, I see foreclosures,” he said. “But I see hotels with empty rooms. There’s a tension brewing in this city again.”
After listing the number of times that violence and rioting have erupted in Los Angeles, he finished by saying that if it happens again soon, “We’ll see who this city belongs to.”
Judging by the legions of fans with middle fingers in the air during the final song, “Killing in the Name,” I don’t think he was alone in his sentiments.