Talking about how bad the traffic getting to shows in Los Angeles is getting boring, so just know that it was terrible and caused us to miss opening band, Wakrat (which was a bummer because it's Rage's Timmy C's side band that I really wanted to see), and only caught the last couple tunes from the other opener, Awolnation. Sigh. Walking into the Forum, it was clear that show was going to go OFF. The lines for drinks (and merch) were long, and almost everyone was in black, and the majority of the black was t-shirts from either Rage Against The Machine, Cypress Hill, or Public Enemy. Fittingly, as that is the trifecta that makes up the truly SUPERgroup that is Prophets Of Rage.
After procuring the requisite rock show whiskey, I found my seat in time for their last tune, "Sail" which seems to be the hit as people were singing along heartily. Singer, Aaron Bruno, urged the crowd to get into saying, "Everyone on your feet!" Many remained sitting. Then he added, "If you can!" You could see people pause, think about that, and rise to their feet - because they could. Good tactic! I thought it put a good patina of gratitude on the whole affair, ever so subtly. Thank you for the reminder, Awolnation!
Everyone spilled back out into the hallways to get refills and meet up with friends, and then it was time to RAGE! Public Enemy's DJ Lord took the stage to spin all the hip hop and rock favorites that get everyone going, and as each new snippet of a classic hit (Nirvana, Beasties, Tupac, etc...) began, another huge roar went up. The floor was general admission standing - which meant the pit was about to get DANGEROUS. I saw POR at The Palladium last Spring and the pit was lethal looking - and this one was like twice the size. Uh oh.
"Where my hip hop fans at?!" (ROAR!) "Where my rock heads at?!" (ROAR!) "Ladies, where you at?!" (roar. Most of them were still recovering from the Beyoncé show at Dodger Stadium the night before, but there were still some sopranos in the house, and I yelled my loudest.) We were all there! Then the lights went out and in maybe my favorite moment of the show, Mary Morello took center stage to introduce her son's band - "I'm Mary Morello! (A chant began of "Mary! Mary!") "I'm 92 years old!" (THUNDER!) "I'd like to introduce the greatest fucking band in the world - Prophets Of Rage!" Oh. My. Gosh. The place nearly imploded as the air raid signals pealed out and POR took the stage with raised fists. It was POWERFUL in there at that moment, let me tell you.
They lit right into their original namesake song, "Prophets Of Rage"- and the non-stop moshing began right then and there. It was EXCITING. It's a good tune because it really showcases all of the aspects that make each members' original bands shine. Chuck D and B-Real trading off the lyrics, and the mighty power of Tom Morello, Brad Wilk, and Tim Commerford blasting everything into smithereens. "Make America Rage Again - and we are the Rage!" yelled B-Real, and you could certainly see and feel that seething anger down below in that monster pit.
People lost their ever-loving minds at the opening chords of "Guerilla Radio" and when it got to the "ALL! HELL! Can't stop us now!" chorus .... well. You really, really believed it. NOTHING could stop this kind of energy, captured and used for good. That's the idea of the whole operation, you know, even if disguised as a hell of a good time. It can always be both. "What bettet place than here? What better time than NOW?!" Exactly. This band in these times is precisely what is needed. And we all knew it.
"Bombtrack" blew it all up again, and then B Real said they were going to do something special, and they laid a double whammy hybrid of Audioslave's "Cochise" (that thrilled the bros in the house from its opening chopper sounding licks) and PE's "She Watch Channel Zero". It was awesome. Of course. With the ovation that greeted that, B-Real looked real happy and said, "It's good to be home!" It sure was. Especially when "People Of The Sun" happened, leading right into Cypress Hill's "Miuzi Weighs A Ton". Phew. The show never let up for one second, and neither did the crowd. I'm actually worried today about one young man in particular who never once stopped banging his head all the way to his waist and back. Chiropractor time. (I know, 'cause my neck hurts today and I wasn't nearly as zealous as this teenager probably seeing all three bands for his first time. Rad.)
Cypress Hill was celebrating 25 years, and B Real gave a shout out to Sen Dog (who was in attendance) before the band threw down "Kill A Man". The HEAVY bass from Timmy C. (even when pulling double duty this night) and FAT beats from Brad Wilk really shone, and I'm sure the fans that caught the many drumsticks Wilk threw out were fully thrilled. "Take The Power Back" ruled it, and I'll always think Chuck D (in a New York Mets #32 jersey on this night) is just the greatest voice in rap.
Super authoritative and powerful, it commands your attention, and schools you every time. So good. By now the pit was looking extra violent at this point (I saw punches thrown, but then they'd pick the dude up and keep circling around. I don't get aggression on that level, but they sure did), but then these guys had waited a loooong time to see this music again, if they ever had before. The xylophone opening to "Rock Superstar" did no one in the pit any favors, as it just got even bigger from there. Yikes.
"Testify" had people dying, mostly when Morello tore into his solo that begins with his guitar plug on his hand. It was simply monstrous. "How many people fuck with hip hop here?", asked B-Real. A LOT it sounded like. "This music is aggression and in your face. That being said, Chuck and I are going to get in your face!" With that, both legendary rappers climbed into the crowd and performed a medley mashup of their respective bands' hits RIGHT in the fans' faces! "Hand On The Pump/Can't Trust It/Insane In The Membrane/Bring The Noise!" - all delivered flawlessly even as both Chuck and B-Real crowd surfed over the heads of their rabid acolytes. "Ain't Goin' Out Like That/Welcome To The Terrordome (!) and House Of Pain's "Jump Around" blew minds, ear drums, and the roof off - all at once. Trust me.
The boys from Rage came back to slay (Pardon. New Beyoncé fan as well) us all with "Sleep Now In The Fire", and a banner with a big fist (also featured on the most popular shirt for sale) unrolled behind the band. The Rage song had an extra air of menace and ferocity when the lyrics were spat out by Chuck D and B-Real, and folks were getting apoplectic in that dang pit. Bless them and their injuries today. This one had another Morello solo, that simply scorched faces. Charred.
"This is one of my favorite joints", B-Real confided. "It's cardio time!" For us all, because it was "Bullet In Your Head"! The first timer behind me went, "OHHHHHHH FUCK!" and another guy in the next aisle over was dancing so hard it took no convincing to know that he didn't care that anyone was watching. He was LOSING it, in the very best way possible. I was super happy for him, because you could see how SUPER happy he was.
After that total destruction, Morello addressed the crowd with one of his trademark fiery, inspiring speeches. "Are you having a great time, Great Western Forum?!" (Throwback! And yes, we were!) "It's been 17 years since Timmy, Brad and I last played here and we sincerely, humbly thank you for bringing us back to where we belong - and you belong - making America rage again!" He then expressed deep gratitude to their crew and the Forum crew, who all get there long before the show and stay long after to make it all happen. Classy, and every artist should do the same. He let the crowd know that each POR show donates to homeless charities and food shelves in each city, and the recipient of this show was PATH (People Assisting The Homeless), as this is always Rock with a cause. "We come with a simple message. The world won't change itself, it's up to you ... We want a world of justice for everyone, a world where you won't be blown up by a drone or shot by a cop - pray for THAT world!" Agreed. "Stand up against injustice wherever it rears its head, in your home, in your schools, in your community ... but tonight we're gonna have a good motherfucking time, People!" TOTAL agreement. With that spur to our sides, Morello launched into a siiiiick, virtuostic solo to start off the new POR tune, "Shut It Down" - which, after a DJ/Guitar battle between DJ Lord and Morello pretty much did shut down the Forum. But not just yet ...
"We're about to turn it up in here!" shouted B-Real, which I didn't think was possible. But it was. "Know Your Enemy" nearly made some cry "Uncle!", but they didn't, and a good thing, because there was STILL a lot of rock to go. When the crowd chanted "All of which are American Dreams!" over and over, it made you believe that some of them might yet be possible. I hope. "The Party's Over" took it down a slight notch, but only because most there don't yet know the original POR jam. Yet.
"It sends a strong message that you all want this message ... stand up and organize ... We are your voice, and you are our voice!" B-Real spoke that truth by way of introducing, "No Sleep 'Til L.A." which mashed up with "Fight The Power" - one of my all time faves. Wilk was SMASHING his kit to bits here, Timmy C. was nearly doing the splits and soaking wet, and Morello laid down yet another incendiary solo, complete with a teeth playing that revealed his "No One For President" sign. That's my vote. Morello then played an "I Am The Highway" sounding guitar intro for what became ... OMG ... "Bulls On Parade"! As I looked down upon the pit, all I could think - or write - was OUCH. For real.
"Make America Rage A-fucking-gain!" WOOOOO! "We'd like to welcome our good friend, Dave Grohl to the stage!" WHAT?!?! As you can imagine, shit went crazy. Crrrazy! Grohl came out for a searing take on the MC5's "Kick Out The Jams" that featured him and Morello trading licks and going for absolute broke. Like BONES broke. Grohl also took over vocals, and all you saw were camera phones and limbs in the air. We were all a flailing. sweaty mess and when B-Real yelled, "Dave Rocking Grohl! Wasn't that fucking AWESOME?!", not a soul could argue. PHEW.
And it STILL wasn't over! Madness and mayhem took completely over when "Killing In The Name" happened next. The now decades old lyrics could have been written last week as we all know that "Some of those who work forces, are the same who burn crosses". Fact. By the time they got to the "FUCK YOU, I WON'T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!" chorus (also a popular shirt), it was beyond chaos in there. Beyond. Bodies were launching through the air, and the ones that weren't all had those fists raised. In full solidarity.
Morello threw his guitar to his tech and screamed "Fuck Yeah!" So did we. The band plus Grohl all took their bows, then turned around for one enormous selfie with the crowd and all the raised fists together, as they've been doing in every city, creating a tableau of images spelling out the massive Power of the People. "We are Prophets Of Rage! Vote NO on Prop 64!" shouted B-Real (in reference to the marijuana legalization vote. Noted.) as the band, having given their ALL, left the stage to the tune of Willie Nelson singing, "The Party's Over". There was no encore, as I really don't think the crowd could have handled any more. Seriously.
As the fans streamed out into the Forum parking lot, I saw a lot of folks assessing their bodily damage, and heard a lot of them discussing their feelings on the show. ALL were fully stoked, though divided some on their loyalties. Many loved all three bands and thought the bringing of them together to be the very best thing of all time. Others thought that without Zack de la Rocha and his ferocity in delivering his words, some of the RAGE was missing. I get it, I do. But I'm also beyond grateful that this music is being heard PERIOD in these times. It's crucial listening, and if you're NOT outraged in these times, you're really not paying attention.
Heart-deep thanks goes out to these true American soldiers, shining a light on injustice and sticking up for the People, in the truest sense of patriotism I know of - doing what is right, and speaking out against what is not. Oh, and for putting on one hell of a show. Solidarity, Brothers!
*Photos courtesy of Paul Gronner Photography.
**Except group photo ripped from Morello's Instagram - thanks!