Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Live Review: Rage Against The Machine Victory

The image of X Factor winner Joe McElderry’s face on a dart board held aloft by a fan in queue perfectly sums up just why he should stay as far away from Finsbury Park as possible on June 6th 2010. Any mention of Simon Cowell’s latest puppet’s name is met with mass booing and plenty of profanities as 40,000 Rage Against The Machine fans swamp the park in north London. This is RATM’s free victory gig to say thank you to the Great British public for getting their 1992 hit Killing In The Name to number one just in time for Christmas last year, after a campaign which showed just how powerful Facebook can be.

The support bands perfectly reflect RATMs genre busting back catalogue. London five-piece Gallows prove they can smash huge outdoor shows just as well as smaller venues. They power through their set of brutal punk rock sparking huge circle pits and an impressive wall of death, especially considering that they are the first of three support acts. Always good at motivating the crowd, lead man Frank Carter gets amongst the masses for a bit of Bieber banter and a mass ‘F*** You’ in true Rage style. An excellent cover of I Fought The Law once sung by The Clash continues the momentum and the band seem genuinely proud to be part of the occasion, with Carter regularly taking pictures of the gigantic crowd on his phone.

Roots Manuva and an impressive entourage switch the mood from mosh to dance with his fusion of hip-hop, dub and electronica. With an excellent bass player and DJ for company the South London rapper gets a good reaction from a crowd of rock fans, showing just why he has been in this business for 16 years.

Like something straight out of Eurovision, Gogol Bordello bring their gypsy punk to the stage and instantly install a party atmosphere. The group from New York complete with an accordion, violin and lots of impressive facial hair, certainly aren’t lacking in enthusiasm and, if the dancing throughout Finsbury Park is anything to go by, it seem to be infectious. When they leave the stage after an incredible set they appear to take the sunshine with them.

However, the clouds part again just in time for Simon Cowell himself (well, a cartoon version) to introduce ‘the world’s greatest rock and roll band’ – his words, not mine - and Zack De La Rocha and co crash straight into Testify. The fans’ reaction to the instantly recognisable intros of classics Bulls On Parade and Guerrilla Radio is immense and their chanting to Know Your Enemy and Township Rebellion show the dedication of Rage’s loyal followers. Tom Morello demonstrates his mind-blowing skill on guitar with several close-ups on the big screen but manages not to overdo it on the solos like many accomplished musicians. The huge power of Bullet In The Head sees enough jumping from Zack - as well as the crowd - to spark an earthquake and leave many fans without feeling in their toes.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a RATM gig without a political speech but Zack also take a moment to show his appreciation for the British music scene, before the band launch into White Riot by The Clash. Their years of touring mean that RATM know how to put a set list together, winding down the show with Sleep Now In The Fire and Freedom before applauding the crowd as they leave the stage. The encore is announced with quotes and newspaper headlines documenting The Rage Factor campaign and the band return with the knock out winning song Killing In The Name.

As the show ends, everyone leaves with the feeling that they have been part of rock music history, and although Simon was probably not bothered by the army of people wearing ‘Rage 1, Cowell 0’ t-shirts – as he was off winning a BAFTA that very evening – it certainly proved that rock can defeat manufactured pop, as well as scissors.

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