Calm like a Bomb!
Before the band even come on, before even Saturday itself, this is the band everyone is talking about. This is why this crowd is here at all, this is why I'm here! For those of you in your late teens or twenties, this is one of the bands of your generation. I grew up with them, everyone knows them and their music is still heard in clubs, on soundtracks and in the media everywhere, but what of the gig itself now we have context?
The crush is already bigger than Metallica the previous evening and the band has yet to start, this crowd is massive! The band start 20 minutes late but finally Rage take to the stage, opening with 'Testify' and the crowd simply explodes! The cheers, the chanting and the bouncing! It's all there. This is what the festival has been lacking, finally a band that can make the people really move. Following this up quickly with 'Bulls on Parade' I feel like I've been hit with a sonic tsunami! I'm totally drowned in musical bliss.
Guitarist Tom Morello's scratching and signature DJ stylings draw applause as he leads the band straight into 'Bombtrack'. It's such a good feeling when you and all of the crowd know the lyrics; it's rare to feel at one with such a large amount of people but it's there and even the stewards are getting into it.
Sadly it's too much! The band has to stop and get the crowd to move back due to the intense crush at the front of the stage. The band manage to get the crowd to play ball and move straight into 'Know your Enemy'. Despite not being on the scene for some time, Rage still sound vital, relevant and full of energy. 'Bullet in the Head', 'Renegades of Funk' and 'Guerrilla Radio' all keep the crowd buzzing and the band don't let up at all, there are no slips and no waining when these are followed by 'Calm like a Bomb', 'Sleep now in the Fire' and 'War Within'. Tom Morrello is clearly enjoying himself intensely as he dives around the stage, whilst Zack de la Rocha can't keep still at all. The passion just flies straight into your face like a hurricane.
There's no big screen, no pyrotechnics or any gimmicks with this band, they don't need it. In fact, I'm somewhat bemused by the big red star and the Russian national anthem making an appearance, neither of which sound too Liberal to me. Politics and irony aside, we all know what needs to be played, well I certainly do, but it seems I'm the only one.
The band closes with, that's right, 'Killing in the Name' and despite being next to the sound desk even I get involved in a circle pit! An amazing track to be sure but where is 'Wake Up'? Where is "my fist in the air in the land of hypocrisy"? Up in smoke that's where. Arguably Rage Against the Machine's best track, the most quotable, the catchiest and the track that still gets played the most today. I can only assume it was pulled from the set at the last minute due to the fires?
That's right, thanks to the Leeds fans the setting of lots of fires probably caused the late start to the set. In fact, the announcer for the main stage was quoted as saying to the fans "Don't shit on your own front doorstep!"; clearly the organisers were not happy. I'd have given Rage a 13 out of 13 if it wasn't for the lack of 'Wake up' but nonetheless, this is the band that made Leeds 2008 for me. As relevant today as they have always been.