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Rage Against The Machine and Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band
July 23, 2010
In 1992, I witnessed some band called Rage Against The Machine
open for Pearl Jam at the Hollywood Palladium. It was an intensely riveting performance that I would never forget. After their meteoric rise to popularity, I never would've imagined I'd see them again at the Hollywood Palladium.
Fast forward 18 years later, the intense amount of electricity and tension was beyond palpable as Rage Against the Machine would take the stage for their first performance in Los Angeles in 10 years. By banding together with numerous music bands as part of the Sound Strike coalition, Rage Against the Machine were raising awareness to fight the controversial Arizona initiative SB1070.
The crowd went crazy once the lights went off and the patented metallic vortex of guitar noise by Tom Morello filled the Hollywood Palladium for "Testify." It was unbelievable to see Morello leap frogging across the stage while Zack De La Rocha venomously spewed his politically charged lyrics. Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford were rhythmically interlocked as the chemistry between the whole band is nothing short of magical.
The temperature in the Palladium was rapidly rising as the masses of humanity churned in the circle pit to "People of The Sun." Fervent fans sang along to every vocal by De La Rocha and emphatically chanted "All of which are American Dreams!" for the ending of "Know Your Enemy." Using his "Arm The Homeless" guitar, Morello viciously flicked the toggle switch on his guitar for the synthetic record scratching solo of "Bulls On Parade."
Wobbly distorted bass, offbeat cowbell and metallic guitar screams ushered in "Township Rebellion," a song De La Rocha stated was written in response to the South African apartheid but can also apply to the "vile piece of legislation" from Arizona. After a blazing cover of The Clash's "White Riot," "Bullet In The Head" had Morello tapping back and forth all over his fretboard for another jaw dropping guitar solo, reminding all of us why he's considered one of the more innovative guitar players in recent history.
Chills coursed through my body for "Guerrilla Radio" as De La Rocha's vocals were top notch and in good condition given that he performed earlier this week with One Day As A Lion
. "Sleep Now In The Fire" was performed with an almost loungey feel as De La Rocha used a spoken word approach. During the breakdown of "Wake Up," companies from corporate america such as AIG and Goldman Sachs were targeted by De La Rocha as some of reasons for the economic problems faced by the country.
"Freedom" and a special dedication of "Killing In The Name" to Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio exhausted all the bullets in the Rage Against the Machine arsenal. The question remains whether Rage Against the Machine will continue to reload their guns for their assault across America.
With two members spending time in Broken Bells, it was astonishing that Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band even found time to rehearse. Oberst worked through a 10 song set injecting his own vitriol into "Roosevelt Room" when he sang "And I would like to write my congressman a letter but I can't afford the stamp." Oberst also put together a benefit on July 31 in Nebraska fighting an anti-immigration initiative in Fremont where he will reunite his under appreciated Desaparecdios outfit.
Personal Bias: Tom Morello is directly responsible for my purchase of a Digitech Whammy Pedal.
The Crowd: Diehard Rage Against the Machine Fans who traveled far and wide to see the band even though the tickets were limited to Los Angeles and Orange County residents.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I can't believe what I'm seeing right now" when Rage Against the Machine was playing on stage.
Random Notebook Dump: Def Jam founder Rick Rubin, Mike D from Beastie Boys and John McEnroe (?!) were chilling on the side of the stage.
"People Of The Sun"
"Know Your Enemy"
"Bulls On Parade"
"Bullet In the Head"
"Calm Like A Bomb"
"Sleep Now in the Fire"
"Killing In The Name"