The country has collectively sent up the bat signal (or the fist signal, to be more precise), and Rage Against The Machine (minus Zack De La Rocha - no one knows why but him) has once again heeded the call. Reunited as Prophets Of Rage, with Chuck D of legendary Public Enemy and B Real of the mighty Cypress Hill filling in on vocals for De La Rocha, finally there is a Supergroup that is ACTUALLY super. Like, people almost can't believe it. But it's real and it went down last night at The Hollywood Palladium like maybe never before. I'm honestly surprised that the building is still standing (though I'm sure they're checking today for structural damage).
The show sold out in less than an hour, with people having to stand in line like the old days to get a wristband. Cash only, with ALL proceeds going to PATH (People Assisting The Homeless). As I said, these guys heed the call. It was THE hot ticket in town, and the excitement was palpable, even online. Once I arrived at the venue, it was evident that this was a show that was not only highly anticipated, but highly necessary. The marquee read "Make America Rage Again", and the people filing in were ready to do just that. Sure, there were lots of the usual rock show black t-shirts, many with Rage, P.E. or Cypress Hill logos, but there were also a whole lot of Bernie Sanders and Fuck Trump shirts in the mix. People are fed up. People are angry. People are scared. People want to DO something. And now they had a whole building of comrades feeling the same way, that love (and MISS) the same music ... you could just tell it was going to be something not just special, but HEAVY.
This was also a reunion of sorts, as Tom Morello is a mutual friend of many of us, so it was a party before even a note was played. We've all seen a lot of shows together, but everyone was as excited as ever, maybe even more so, because all these great musicians had never played before as one band (besides a small kick-off show at The Whiskey last Wednesday). By the time I got inside from gabbing out front, the floor was already completely full, front to back, side to side. The crowd was also already going OFF, literally jumping up and down to the D.J. spinning "Jump Around", and screaming along to "Walk This Way" - to mere recordings. We all looked at each other like "Uh Oh". There was going to be some lethal mosh pits tonight.
I first met my friend, Fred Armisen, at a game night at Tom Morello's, and when I heard about Prophets Of Rage having a show, I knew he had to be my plus one. We hadn't seen each other in a long time, so it was complete reunion time, but Fred is a busy guy and had to work late. As the energy was ramping up and you could feel the rock and roll tension building, he texted that he had just parked. I had to run t the door to give him his wristband to get in, and just prayed it wouldn't start before we got back. I love openings. We quick hugged and ran through the crowd back to the balcony (apologies to any selfie wanting people we ran past, but c'mon!) just as it went dark and the air raid signals started going off, letting everyone know this was a Rage show! Just as we found our place at the railing and the crowd was losing its ever-loving mind, Fred nudged me and showed me his phone. "Muhammad Ali just died" was the text. Whoa. I got chills and we just looked at each other big eyed, and then BAM! Chuck D. yelled "We are the Prophets Of Rage!" and this Supergroup launched into the song named for the band, "Prophets Of Rage". One greatest of all time left the Earth just as these greatest of all times began. Each man dedicated to social justice, and that itself is rare. Again, it felt super heavy in there, and that fact only made it more so.
A massive mosh pit instantly formed, never to stop until the lights came back on. It didn't matter that no one knew this new, original POR song yet, fists were raised the whole time. Fists were prominent in the merch, the posters, the backdrop ... Fists up is THE symbol for this revolutionary rock, and if this energy could be harnessed ... Hoo, boy. No more fossil fuels needed. Ever. Chuck D said, "We raise a fist in homage to the great Muhammad Ali!", and we all did. They had clearly just received that word as well, and it added even more heavyweight to the proceedings. The musical fist raised in homage was Rage's "Guerilla Radio", and when the People all screamed, "WHAT BETTER TIME THAN NOW?!" it was as if a spiritual molotov cocktail had been thrown, and it got even crazier. "ALL HELL CAN'T STOP US NOW!" was the God's honest truth in that moment, as was when Chuck D. yelled "POWER TO THE PEOPLE!" at song's end. Truer words were never spat.
"Bombtrack" was up next, and when People shouted "Burn, Burn!" I really thought we might, because by now it was so hot in there it was practically raining from the ceiling. Sweat poured off the performers and the audience alike, and no one minded a bit. Chuck D. said after that one, "Give Zack De La Rocha credit for those lyrics. They're revolutionary." Fact, and one of many respectful ZDLR shout outs. It only got hotter when they next threw down P.E.'s "Miuzi Weighs A Ton" and Chuck D. laid it all on the line. This time it featured a solo by Morello that scorched eyebrows, and the one-two punch of Tim Commerford on bass and Brad Wilk on drums made it all the harder core.
"People Of The Sun" went off, of course, and was immediately followed by "Take The Power Back" (maybe the theme song of the night), with extra thick bass from Timmy C. as Chuck D. told us all to "Bring that shit!" This was followed by a "Fuck Trump" chant, that was definitely another theme to the event. Red baseball hats reading, "Make America Rage Again" were an obvious riff on Trump's ridiculous theme, and a tip-off that, yeah, we're taking the power back. Thanks.
"Shout out to all y'all, this is too good to be true right now!", said an obviously stoked/touched B Real, as the Prophets Of Rage ripped into his Cypress Hill anthem, "Rock Superstar". The place went apeshit, for real, the second they heard the little xylophone intro. Whether this was your favorite jam back in the day or you were a kid hearing it for the first time, it was classic and we were all in it all the way together. This is when I began pondering the mosh ... then quickly thought better of it when I saw bodies and other materials flying through the air. I'm pretty sure there was blood and tooth shrapnel on that floor as it was being swept up at night's end. There had to be.
"For the motherfuckers that couldn't be at this show, you gotta tell 'em how dope it was. You know what that means?! You gotta testify!", commanded Chuck D as the band tore apart, yes, "Testify". This whole story is my testimonial, and I'm here to tell you ... America is beyond ready to RAGE again. Bar nothing. The joint was incinerated on this one. I'm telling you, it was nuts. Like we all looked over the railing at the roiling hurricane eye of humanity circling below us and could only say, "Whoa." - and pray for their safety. Insanity.
Appropriately insane, actually, because now the Rage guys left the stage to the two M.C.'s and P.E's DJ Lord, and we got a P.E./Cypress Hill medley that was honestly "Insane In The Membrane". It was also "Shoot 'Em Up", "Can't Trust It", "Bring The Noise" (my favorite P.E. jam!), "I Ain't Going Out Like That", and "Welcome To The Terrordome"!!!
It was a rapper's delight in there, and every damn word was shouted along with, punctuated by pointed fingers in the air, rock horns, and the omnipresent raised fists. People couldn't believe their dumb luck as they saw these rap MASTERS take the place apart word by word. It was really something else. Called MAYHEM. (Forgive all the caps. There is no way to emphasize these things enough without them. So there.)
The Rage guys returned then, and "Sleep Now In The Fire" fully slayed everyone all over again. Morello had a new solo for it, B Real took the vocals, and it was a remix for NOW. By now, the pit was as ferocious as the music, and when the band lit into another new one from POR, "Shut 'Em Down" - which is, I believe, exactly what they intend to do in Cleveland at the RNC. Look out. B Real took on the lead vocals for "Know Your Enemy" and it felt ominous. Like something brewing ... like maybe a riot ... but more likely an all out revolution. "They say jump, you say how high?!" Nope. Not anymore. We're not having it. Here, it needs to be mentioned that Morello was playing like he was being electrocuted from start to finish. It really was something to behold.
"You can change the singer, but you can't change the song," said Chuck D respectfully. "We're keeping a seat warm for you, Zack." Another tip of the hat to De La Rocha, who, as great as this all is, is still a pretty large void. Imagine them ALL together. No, visualize it. Then it will happen. When Chuck D. intoned, "All of which are American Dreams..." over and over, it was so cool with his authoritative bass tone, but you still hear De La Rocha in your head. You can't help it. And his lyrics remain as timely as ever, sadly but truly.
"The Party's Over" was the third and last POR original of the night, though it already sounded like a classic. It had the crowd chanting, "The Party's Done!" - DONE. The party system, the 1% party, all of it. Never was there a stronger reminder (except maybe at recent Bernie Sanders rallies) that the People have the power. No matter what the "Power" thinks. And we were all in there fighting that power. Hard. "There's lots of energy here tonight, let's see what we can do!", urged Chuck D, and what we could do was all fully freak out over "Kill A Man" - the Cypress classic that Rage covered on their Renegades album, but now it was live with both originals. SICK.
Now articles were being thrown through the air, in addition to the bodies. Full beers, hats, shirts, shoes, I don't even know what was being flung with abandon, probably because it felt like there was no limit to the nuts we could go in there. That was proven next by the combo of the Beastie's "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn" that merged right into "Fight The Power". Oh, my goodness. Oh, my GOODNESS. The only difference was that this time the city was changed to Cleveland. All I can say is watch out, RNC. I was there in '08 for the RNC with Rage ... and it's only more gnarly now, so .... !
"Bulls On Parade" was the one that Rage played through bullhorns a cappella when the cops pulled the power at the '08 RNC in St. Paul, and it was no less effective unplugged. In fact, even more so, because the People filled in. Last night's version suffered no lack of electricity, and when the "Rally 'round the Family!" chorus rang out, that's what it felt like. A big, global family of People sticking up for what's right - together. Plus, it's really rallying together when every red cent goes to help the homeless through PATH. What other "Supergroup" have you ever heard of doing that? You haven't.
"Raise your voices, Motherfuckers!" demanded Chuck D, just as a massive red banner unfurled behind the stage reading "MAKE AMERICA RAGE AGAIN!" to more thunder and lightning inside of this indoor storm. Prophets Of Rage began the opening chords of "Killing In The Name" - and that was that. The place was destroyed. My notes read simply "BEZERK!!!" And it was. "Some of those up in Congress," B Real spat, "Are the same that burn crosses!" It was SO heavy in there at this point, it was almost scary looking over the edge of the railing. There was so much testosterone flying around that it would be dangerous if everyone hadn't been so good natured about it. People were joyously taking elbows to the head, supporting bodies flying above them, and smiling all the while, like it hurt SO good (though I bet this morning might be a different story).
Just as the roof was about to fully implode on the proceedings, it was over. Chuck D shouted, "We are the Prophets Of Rage!", and the band took their bows amid total, complete, ecstatic mayhem of applause and fists raised in rock victory. With a purpose. Then they were gone, the lights came up, and Willie Nelson's "The Party's Over" came on over the p.a. There was no encore, which is probably good. People may have died, from the pit, dehydration, or from sheer happiness. Not a bad way to go, but it's better to be here to fight the power.
Everyone kind of stood there a moment, shell shocked, before they began to file out and check their rock show wounds. Overheard everywhere was, "Man, we NEEDED that!" Truth. Not just as fans of great rock music, but as a People. We need to know that we're not alone, that there are people fighting for justice, and for what's right, and what better way to do that than through an extra great time with all your People (I always capitalize People, because it should be.)? I can't think of one.
As everyone tried to recover upstairs, it was all excited chatter about what had just gone down, and how lucky we all felt to have witnessed it. But you'll have your chance too. The Prophets Of Rage are just getting started. They're already jetting off to New York for the Governor's Ball tomorrow (DO NOT MISS, NY!) and then ... stay tuned, but it's ON. Mary Morello told me she's gearing up for one of her famous band introductions, so you know there's more to come. Thank goodness.
Because it's time for America to RAGE against the machine again ... with everything we've got. And with the Prophets Of Rage as the revolutionary soundtrack, we've got more than enough to TAKE THE POWER BACK!
Thank you, Prophets Of Rage, for last night, and for hearing - and answering - the call. It's ON.
*Photos by special guest photographer Pete Halvorsen