Prophets Of Rage At The Mayan, Thursday September 12th 2019
On Thursday night, the third presidential debate was raging on TV,… or not, I don’t know since I didn’t watch it. I was actually more interested by another event, probably much more raging than this bore-fest… the second sold-out show of Prophets of Rage at the Mayan Theater.
I put both events in parallel but they really can’t be compared, if Prophets Of Rage want to be one of the most political bands that exist today, I doubt people are still going to their shows with the belief to make a difference or do a political statement. Don’t these people just want to mosh at some good old Rage Against The Machine’s songs?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of these cynical people who are saying that Chuck D, B-Real, Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk, DJ Lord, and Tom Morello are just exploiting ‘90s nostalgia to boost their bank accounts, these guys put their time and money where their mouths are: I have seen Morello headlining the teachers strike a few months ago, Chuck D giving an impromptu Public Enemy concert in the middle of Skid Row a few years ago, while a portion of proceeds from each show of their ‘Make America Rage Again Tour’ benefited a local homeless charity – P.A.T.H. (People Assisting the Homeless) here in Los Angeles.
Thursday was the last concert of a giant world tour, which started months ago, and it was also a hometown concert for the 6 men, who have spent the last year touring arenas, nightclubs, and festivals. It was a real pleasure to see them evolve on stage in front of this giant mosh pit, which had formed as soon as they launched their first song, the cover of Public Enemy’s ‘Prophets of Rage’… DJ Lord had warmed up the room for about 30 minutes with a large selection of ‘90s hits from Black Sabbath to Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Nirvana, the White Stripes, and the very male middle-age crowd was more than ready to raise their fists in the air.
From the photo pit where I was standing during the first songs, to the back of the giant mosh pit where I watched the rest of the show, the energy was consistently very high while the Prophets on stage never stopped jumping and moving, especially Tom Morello and his laser-sharp guitars — he even used one with 2 necks at one point. From Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine’s hits to Prophets of Rage’s songs from their self-titled full-length released 2 years ago, the place was sweating a renewed faith in that Take-the-Power-Back motivation.
Without any doubt, people were here to have a good time in the pit when the six men played the hits of their former bands, the numerous covers of Rage Against The Machine, in particular, were received by the crowd with plenty of enthusiasm, but people had also to be aware that the new songs are the reason why this supergroup exists in the first place. Indeed, there was no shortage of black & red Prophets Of Rage merch – signed by Shepard Fairey, whom I was expecting bumping into – and I don’t think I have seen one person who was not wearing something unrelated to one of the concerned bands, Audioslave included.
The personalities of the three frontmen completed the scene, Morello played the acerbic riffs with a signature sound that made any Rage Against The Machine song recognizable at the first razor-edge note, while Chuck D had this reassuring presence, rapping with his authoritarian deep voice he even reinforced with a megaphone at some point. If expressions like ‘Fight the Power’ or ‘Bring the Noise’ have become as trivialized as today’s commercialized hip hop lines, they still resonate true and profound told with his booming vocals,… Anyway, he should be the only one allowed to pronounce them, because he was the first one.
As usual, Chuck and B-Real were teaming up on the De La Rocha’s caustic vocals as well as for the rest of the songs, navigating between a familiar mix of punk, funk, rap, and metal, but mid-set, they cooled down the rage a bit with a hip hop medley of Cypress Hill/Public Enemy songs, and they truly seemed to enjoy being in their original element. Another RATM cover was followed by an Audioslave song leaving an empty space in front of the mic stand between Morello and Commerford, and this scene reminded me that the only time I saw Chris Cornell was at one of the first POR concerts at the Teragram Ballroom, where the late singer made one of his last appearances, even crowd surfing during a song.
The furious mosh pit during the Rage Against the Machine’s hits, from ‘Bulls on Parade’ to ‘Killing in the Name’, would certainly have turned any middle-age man very nostalgic, and I saw a few of them dancing in the alley, maybe too afraid to make a fool of themselves in the middle of the human whirl. It was a fun and thrilling show from start to finish, without any long political discourse between the songs, I guess the Prophets now believe the material is speaking by itself, and to my great surprise, I don’t think the current president’s name was even pronounced once! The Dodgers blue ‘Make LA Rage Again’ screen appearing at the end of the show was the only obvious Trump reference.
If there was no shortage of revolutionary fervor all show-long, you have to wonder where this revolution is going? What is left of the MakeAmericaRageAgain hashtag after 3 years of Trump regime? Who wouldn’t want to ‘unfuck the world’? Who wouldn’t applaud Morello’s anti-fascist sticker on the back of his guitar? Who wouldn’t get excited to shout with a visceral thrill RATM’s famous line ‘Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me’?
When they formed in 2016, Prophets of Rage were the dream team born from people’s frustration after the election debacle, they even teamed up with Michael Moore in 2017 for their first video. They wanted to ‘bring some noise’ and denounce the ‘bullshit’.
If Public Enemy and RATM reached mainstream success during the Bush and Clinton’s years, Trump’s era probably became the worst nightmare for the members of these bands. But after the 2016 election, it was as if none of the ‘Fight the Power’ and ‘Evil Power’ politically charged songs had ever existed. Why still fighting and raging when people keep electing the worst they are offered? Why raging when social progress seems to go backward 2 decades later? Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to be still fighting for a revolution that seems further than ever. In Trump’s third year reign, Prophets Of Rage are sermonizing the obvious, half of the country is raging about the current regime, and they are performing in front of an already converted audience, more frustrated than ever by the system…
Even though the show sometimes looked like just a crowd-pleaser, preaching to the choir or rehashing the past, I just want to believe Prophets of Rage still matter today. Aren’t they the soundtrack to our resistance? They seem to be doing a Sisyphean task in the absurd cycle of our political history, even though their revolutionary statement has often been reduced to a hashtag.
DJ Set (DJ Lord)
Prophets of Rage (Public Enemy cover)
Testify (Rage Against the Machine cover)
Unfuck The World
Guerrilla Radio (Rage Against the Machine cover)
Made With Hate
Know Your Enemy (Rage Against the Machine cover)
Hail to the Chief
Take the Power Back (Rage Against the Machine cover)
Hand on the Pump/Can’t Truss It/Insane in the Brain/Bring the Noise/Ain’t Goin Out/Jump Around
Sleep Now in the Fire (Rage Against the Machine cover)
Cochise (Audioslave cover)
Bullet in the Head (Rage Against the Machine cover)
Living on the 110
How I Could Just Kill a Man (Cypress Hill cover)
Bulls on Parade (Rage Against the Machine cover)
Fight the Power (Public Enemy cover)
Killing in the Name (Rage Against the Machine cover)
Bombtrack (Rage Against the Machine cover)