Words by: Gerrod Harris
Wednesday night, August 24th, Prophets Of Rage– the near complete Rage Against The Machine reunion consisting of original members Tom Morello, Brad Wilk, and Tim Commerford, with the edition of rappers Chuck D and B-Real of Public Enemy and Cypress Hill, as well as Public Enemy disc jockey, DJ Lord– tore up the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre at what has been their biggest show to date. Joined by Wakrat and Awolnation, the band have embarked on their Make America Rage Again tour and are also promoting their upcoming EP, The Party’s Over.
Prophets Of Rage bassist Tim Commerford has been busy with a number of small side projects over the last few years with Wakrat being the newest of these. A t-shirt bearing Commerford-hiding his highly distinctive ink- takes the stage declaring Wakrat to have their origins in France. The anonymity which Commerford strives for here further adds to the punk roots of the power trio’s music; featuring a flurry of pulsating, start and stop rhythms, incredibly rough textures, and a high punk rock energy. Wakrat is the opposite of polished and an obvious rejection of not only modern pop but most modern rock, opting for a sound reminiscent of the 1980’s LA punk scene. Wakrat will release their debut album this November 11th.
In the past, I have written off Awolnation as that pop rock band with that catchy 2011 hit, “Sail”. I did not think they had much more to offer. I was mistaken. The band turned out to be far heavier than I expected, and while they can be very poppy, they have an edge which is found in bands like Rage Against The Machine. Similar as to how RATM brought hard rock to rapping and hip-hop beats, Awolnation brings an aggression to their pop undertones. Vocalist Aaron Bruno can belt out such a rough tone with such power. What an excellent demonstration of modern pop colliding with hard rock. Not only was there a drum solo- a nod to an old rock tradition- but they transformed their pop hit “Sail” into a lengthy epic, featuring a killer guitar solo in an extended outro.
Taking the stage solo was DJ Lord, spinning vintage hip-hop records ranging from Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog to the Beastie Boys and began to throw in some classic rock for good measure. He had about ten minutes of playing around on the turntables to warm up the audience and made for an entertaining first DJ set for myself. The band walked on to the sound of an air raid siren before blasting into the title track of their upcoming EP, “The Prophets Of Rage”. Their set consisted most of Rage Against The Machine classics of the likes of “Bombtrack”, “People Of The Sun”, “Know Your Enemy”, and “Take The Power Back”. While the RATM tracks were in abundance, Prophets Of Rage also included a wide range of covers from both Public Enemy (“Miuzi Weighs A Ton” and “Shut ‘Em Down”) and Cypress Hill (“Rock Superstar”) as well as a cover of Van Halen’s instrumental track “Cathedral” in which Morello brought the lifeless synthesizer based song to life through his soulful soloing. Bruno was also brought back onto stage to perform “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” by Bruce Springsteen– the only boss worth listening to as Morello put it- which was a fusion of both RATM’s cover and the original, giving Bruno, Morello, and drummer Brad Wilk chance to lay out some excellent three part harmonies. They also performed Audioslave’s “Cochise” with lyrics from “She Watch Channel Zero” as well as the Beastie Boys hit, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” with lyrics of PE’s “Fight The Power” mashed in.
Both B-Real and Chuck D proved to be an excellent fit with the band. While neither could perfectly replace original RATM frontman Zach de la Rocha, they were the best anyone could be for such a role. The fan interaction between these two was probably what made them so great. Multiple times they would be seen rapping from the pit and B-Real even surfed the crowd while rapping “Insane In The Brain”. Giving the band a short intermission, DJ Lord and the two rappers played segments of various hits from each other’s careers while walking through the mosh pit. The already explosive set continued on, surprise covers and variations continued to roll out of the speakers with a number more RATM tracks thrown in the middle. The band dove head on into “Bulls On Parade”. “Killing In The Name” felt like the obvious follow up the conclude the show but Prophets Of Rage had one last surprise waiting for us. An excited Tom Morello takes the mic and announces that a good friend of theirs is about to take the stage with them for the next song. Then Morello uttered the most amazing words, “please welcome, Dave fucken Grohl”. Holy Shit. I’m shocked by heart didn’t burst out of my chest from the excitement. Grohl then runs centre stage and shouts out the iconic line “It’s time to… Kick out the jams motherfucker” from the MC5’s classic, “Kick Out The Jams” in which he played rhythm guitar and belted out the lead vocals in his rough and edgy, voice. What was Grohl doing in Toronto? I haven’t the slightest idea. To be honest, I don’t care all too much, because in that moment, his sole purpose was to make sure we all kicked out the jams. This was an appearance of monstrous proportions; a rendezvous of rock ‘n’ roll royalty.
Naturally, there was no encore. You can’t leave the stage and follow that up. Instead, Grohl left to the side of the stage to watch the band lay out the most blistering rendition of “Killing In The Name” in which a banner the size of the stage revealed the phrase “Make Canada Rage Again”. The anthem of defiance was screamed by all. Following this, the band walked off for the night and B-Real took centre stage, “Hey Canada” he calls out with such swagger, “legalize it” as he lights up a fat joint and ran off stage. What a concert! To anyone who missed out because this wasn’t a full reunion, or they didn’t want to see Morello without de la Rocha, truly missed one of the most incredible shows I have ever seen. To many this will sound controversial, but the almost Rage Against The Machine reunion is a culturally more significant affair than the almost Guns ‘N’ Roses reunion. Unfortunately, I missed GNR, but there was no way I would have missed Prophets Of Rage. This is the invigorating and inspiring reunion that rock ‘n’ roll needed, and their Toronto stop is a memory I am sure we will all remember for the rest of our lives.
Watch the entire concert from the official Prophets Of Rage live stream here:
Prophets Of Rage Set List
1: Prophets Of Rage
2: Guerilla Radio
4: Miuzi Weighs A Ton
5: People Of The Sun
6: Take The Power Back
7: Rock Superstar
9: Hand on the Pump / Can’t Truss It / Insane in the Brain / Bring the Noise / I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That / Welcome to the Terrordome
10: Sleep Now In The Fire
11: Cochise/She Watch Channel Zero?
12: The Ghost Of Tom Joad
13: Bullet In The Head
15: Shut ‘Em Down
16: Know Your Enemy
17: The Party’s Over
18: No Sleep Till Brooklyn/Fight The Power
19: Bulls On Parade
20: Kick Out The Jams
21: Killing In The Name