It seems like a while back now, but remember that Facebook campaign to get Rage Against The Machine to number 1 for Christmas instead of the usual tripe from Simon Cowell and his X Factor cronies? Remember their promise to come and play a free gig in the UK if we got them to the top spot? Well consider that a promise fulfilled on Sunday 6th June 2010, when Finsbury Park became the venue for ‘The Rage Factor’.
Free gigs always draw interesting crowds to say the least, and looking around today there’s everyone from the crust punks (who have obviously ridden the freebus down from Camden) to your Glastonbury ‘rock’ chicks in their designer wellies. Fair enough there are a few rude boys looking angry at the fence, absolutely crushed by the fact that the hippies have taken over their turf and not even bothered to invite them to the gig. But they know they are clearly outnumbered, and this is one battle they will never win…
Kicking things off today are Gallows who look like they’ve recovered from their late night headlining the Bizarre Ball and are ready to smash everyone’s faces in. To mark the occasion they open with ‘God Save The Queen’, which perfectly summarises the tone of the evening. Frank Carter is venomous as ever, spitting attitude on every corner of the stage whilst the chaos around him unfolds, yet still seeming grateful to be playing such a landmark event. By the end of the set it’s obvious the Watford quintet have added to their ever-growing legions of fans and quite rightly.
Next up is Roots Manuva who is one of the more credible names in the UK hip hop scene having been around before grime took off. Unfortunately though, following the anarchic mayhem that was Gallows didn’t do him any favours, even with a live band backing him. It’s not his performance that lets him down, it’s just one cant help but wonder why he wasn’t on before Gallows.
Gypsy punk collective Gogol Bordello stroll on stage and pick things up right where Gallows left off, at least in terms of energy. Despite being one of the less heavier bands on the bill, their light hearted offering of demented polka-swing in the early evening seems the perfect warm-up to the more serious headline act.
Though Simon Cowell was invited to tonight’s celebrations, he was already busy receiving a special award at the TV Baftas. Which is a shame, as he would really have enjoyed the snotty cartoon pisstake of himself admitting defeat and with “distinct displeasure” introducing Rage. By the time the band come on for the air-raid intro of ‘Testify’, the crowd has grown 40,000 strong and Finsbury Park suddenly feels like it’s about to explode. This later becomes literally the case when the outside crowds charge one of the entrance gates and burst in like a pack of Zombies from 28 Days Later.
‘Testify’ sounds explosive, though simultaneously induces a sense of what the fuck? Were Rage really Number 1 for Christmas? Are they really here to play for us and for free? Did Grandma really headbang at the dinner table? It suddenly becomes very real when Zack De La Rocha steps up to remind us why we are all here, talking about people power starting at a grass roots level and how together we can “change the world”. Inspiring stuff. Following on with ‘Bombtrack’ and ‘People Of The Sun’ is no surprise; tonight was always going to be a ‘best of’ themed set – without the additional agenda of promoting anything new.
The headliners still have that potent groove and look as confident as ever, but something doesn’t seem quite right for the first half of the set – their tempo. Almost every song feels around 15 BPM slower than record, which is very noticeable and grates like a mild hangover on a Tuesday morning. Zack in particular seems somewhat out of breath coming in late here and there, but luckily Tom Morello holds everything in place by some stunning fretwork. Not only is the man a mastermind of blues-rock riffs, but his zany approach to lead guitar allows to his utter command of the instrument to shine through in a very original way.
Halfway through the set the band introduce Jon and Tracey Morter who started the Facebook campaign to stop X Factor becoming the UK Christmas number 1 for the fifth year running. Presenting them with a giant cheque for what looked like a shitload of money, Morello proudly states that all the band’s profits are going to homeless charity Shelter. After paying tribute to the British bands that inspired them by covering ‘White Riot’ (The Clash), the set picks up and starts to pack the punch it needed in the earlier half.
Before the encore, the crowd are treated to the dulcet tones of X Factor Winner-Loser Joe McElderry as the December chart stats are shown. Obviously the penultimate moment of the night was to be the song that made it all happen, Killing In Name Of, and the words, “Fuck you. I won’t do what you tell me,” must have rung for miles…Whilst it was not their best UK performance, tonight was never really about Rage Against The Machine, it was about fucking up the system in the name of artistic integrity and putting a bullet in the head of manufactured music.
God Save The Queen (Sex Pistols cover)
London Is The Reason
I Dread The Night
In The Belly Of A Shark
I Fought The Law (The Clash cover)
Orchestra of Wolves
Rage Against The Machine Setlist:
People Of The Sun
Know Your Enemy
Bulls On Parade
Bullet In The Head
White Riot (The Clash cover)
Sleep Now In The Fire
Killing In The Name