The seething poetry of Rage Against the Machine now sounds like a prophecy


As the saying goes, history does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes. For Rage Against the Machine, the violence of the story’s rhymes fueled a fire that burn again. Thirty years after the group’s debut, more than 20 years since their last studio album and more than 10 years since the iconoclastic quartet’s last merger, the rock band presented their urgent sound manifesto at Capital One Arena on Tuesday. In a concert landscape marked by cash reunions and joyless birthday celebrations, Rage – as it did in its heyday – stood above the rest and proved to be as fierce and happy as ever. .

Throughout a 90-minute set, the first performance of a two-night DC adventure on their public service announcement tour, Rage sounded like no time had passed since the band played. regularly in the arenas. The three members who have remained active, as Audioslave and then as Prophets of Rage, have established themselves well, with Tim Commerford’s funky bass lines and Brad Wilk’s powerful drums providing a rhythmic fortress as Tom Morello pressed not only riffs but also scratches, screams and sirens from his guitar.

For years, Zack de la Rocha was the missing piece in the band’s alchemy equation, but even an injury that kept him sitting on stage all night couldn’t dampen his vocal attack. While the instrumentation still gets the pits turning and heads banging, it’s de la Rocha’s lyrics that make Rage seem so vital, especially now.

Heavy with bullets, bombs, coffins and hearses, de la Rocha’s lyrics about resisting capitalism, colonialism and military and prison complexes sound particularly powerful these days. Rage warned people to wake up before “woke” was a watchword, and the band’s poetry now reads like a prophecy.

In their 1992 track “Killing in the Name,” the refrain, “some of those who work are the same ones who burn crosses” took a stand against police brutality and tied it to America’s history of racist violence. . In 2022, it still resonates: some of those who work also seem to be storming the US Capitol – or, as de la Rocha updated the lyrics on Tuesday, “Some of those who burn crosses are the same ones who occupy their functions”.

Prophets of Rage and the problem of fighting today’s wars with yesterday’s weapons

Rage has always spoken out against the hypocrisy and struggled with the dissonance of being a mainstream band that plays in arenas named after banks. Overall, they did more good than harm. They raised over $345,000 for local charities through ticket sales for both DC shows and at the concert, they used the arena’s jumbotron to broadcast footage of DC residents killed by police. The accompanying messages made the group’s politics even more explicit. “They have declared perpetual war,” one slide read. Another, in capital letters: “We must respond with permanent unrest.”

But beyond T-shirts emblazoned with “Free Mumia” and “Free Ukraine” or “Black Lives Matter” and “Nazi Lives Don’t Matter,” it was unclear how the capacity crowd — almost uniformly white, male and unmasked – had taken Rage’s sermon from the mosh pit to the street. The group has been begging for revolution for three decades. As de la Rocha asked the crowd, “What better place than here?” What better time than now?

About Christopher Rodgers

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