Combine Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill, and you get Prophets of Rage. The supergroup just wrapped up a 3-night run through Florida, the first of which was at St. Augustine Amphitheatre on Friday, September 30 (one of the smaller venues on the tour, about 4,100 capacity). The next two nights would include stops at larger 20,000 capacity venues: MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on Saturday and Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach on Sunday.
Although the three prophetic genre-melding bands split years ago, they came at consecutive generations of young people in the ’80s and ’90s with eloquence, grace, and bile. Concepts about which middle-class white kids would otherwise be clueless now thrust into the collective consciousness. Challenges faced by poor folks described in terms young people of all backgrounds could grasp. Dinner table conversations from suburbia to the inner city began to be characterized by questions about how someone could just kill a man. Rage Against the Machine’s spiritual leader Tom Morello could not rest amidst today’s political lunacy. So he did what you do when you have the credibility to call on the likes of B-Real and Chuck D, he picked up the phone and asked to form a new band based on time-tested ideas. Thankfully, they said yes and have joined forces that marries the old school deliveries of Chuck D and B-Real, the beats of DJ Lord, and the angry intensity of Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk. Together, they strive to inform the people and fight against social ills, the kinds of problems brought on by presidential candidates suggesting we build a wall between the U.S. and the people of the sun. Donald Trump’s hateful arrogance, Hillary Clinton’s allergy to honesty, and perpetual police brutality in America highlight some of these issues.
The back of Tom’s guitar even proclaims “Nobody For President.”
I was fortunate enough to make it to the St. Augustine show, while other members of the SIGT team checked out the Tampa show. The St. Augustine show was not sold out, but I would guess it was about two-thirds full. I heard that the Tampa show had the lawn closed and all lawn tickets were upgraded. Special guest opening up the show on the “Make America Rage Again Tour” was AWOLNATION. I had never heard of them and decided to leave it that way until I would see them at the show. I arrived midway through their set of electronic rock and I found myself digging a few of their tunes, and their captivating stage presence helped. After they finished, DJ Lord then got the crowd warmed up by spinning old-school hits and displaying his mad turntable tickling skills.
I snagged some floor/pit tickets which provided a much different experience than sitting up in the seats. I met up with some friends that had seat tickets so I enjoyed most of Prophets of Rage with them, but I eventually ventured down to the pit for the last 20 minutes of the show. Being a stone’s throw away where the band can look you straight in the eye and feed off your energy really changes everything. It’s all about perspective. No confinement, no holding back. Although I was getting down when I was up the seats, I really let loose once my feet entered the pit. I positioned myself to the right side of the stage in front of Tom and got as close as I could without being in the moshing areas.
Of course, some new original Prophets of Rage material was also put on display, such as the opening song “Prophets of Rage” and “The Party’s Over” which was played later on. The show was a huge fat helping of nostalgia goodness for long time fans, featuring heavy hitters from RATM’s four albums released from 1992 to 2000. The beginning of the set included “Guerrila Radio” and “Bombtrack” which were soon followed by “People of the Sun,” “Take the Power Back,” and the RATM cover of Cypress Hill’s “How I Could Just Kill A Man” as well as Cypress Hill’s hard rock song “Rock Superstar.” Other RATM songs played included “Testify,” “Sleep Now in the Fire,” “Bullet in the Head” and “Know Your Enemy.” There was an even a little bit of Audioslave played, as the mashed up “Cochise” with Public Enemy’s “She Watch Channel Zero.”
When it comes to Public Enemy songs, I’m not too familiar with a lot of their stuff. Also, I don’t think they cross over into the hard rock scene as much as Cypress Hill does. However, Chuck D and B-Real did a medley of hip hop songs before the encore while the rest of the band took a time out. Included in the medley were “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” (Beastie Boys) and Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power.”
The encore was the epitome of being at a Rage show, starting with “Bulls on Parade” followed by a call to action from Tom Morello telling fans to make their voices heard and stand up for your rights. The backdrop banner had changed twice already throughout the show, first was a silhouette of a protesting crowd with their fist raised, encirclerd in a broken-ish “No” symbol (a circler with a diagonal line). The second banner dropped midway through the show feaured another of the ban’s prominent logos and symbols of power: the closed fist in front of a star/cross design. The banner behind the band would drop once more to display “MAKE AMERICA RAGE AGAIN” as the band brought us home with “Killing in the Name” and the whole crowd singing “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!”
While it wasn’t quite like being at a Rage Against The Machine show (gotta have Zack de la Rocha), Prophets of Rage delivered exactly what was promised… lots of our favorite RATM songs with heavy doses of Cypress Hill and Public Enemy. By comparing the setlists from various nights, it doesn’t seem like there’s much of a song variety between shows. Not that I care, I wish I could have made it to the following nights and watch the same show all over again.
Special thanks to Mikey Ballz for the quick video clip of “Killing In The Name.”
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