Concert review by JD Alvarez
July 30th, 2011 turned out to be a very beautiful day in the City of Angels by anyone’s standards. It was 83 degrees with scattered cumulo-nimbus clouds swirling in a very jealous sky over the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
The festival featured English sensation Muse, Chicago-based punk band Rise Against, R&B artist Ms. Lauryn Hill, Peruvian rapper Immortal Technique and El Gran Silencio who calls Monterrey, Mexico home. Not to mention the featured act, Rage Against The Machine.
The festival had a different vibe from the debacle that was that ill prepared and executed Electric Daisey Carnival that was marred by the death of a 15-year old concert goer last summer. At this festival, security was evident, and irresponsible behavior was not tolerated. A welcomed relief to many of the older fans.
The first band to take the stage was El Gran Silencio. Despite being one of the lesser known bands, El Gran Silencio hit the stage hard. They brought a sound that not many of the punk crowd was familiar with. It was an adaptation of the Banda sound, with an alternative and ska-like feel to it. They opened some eyes, and brought attention to a new sound that is starting to make some noise in Los Angeles.
In between breaks, I got to walk around the pit area. I was able to meet fans from all over California that were there to see the three featured acts. What stood out to me was two twenty-something year-old Canadians (Ian Zendejas and Patrick Way). They proudly proclaimed that they drove 28 hours straight from Calgary to be at this show. They said, “‘we’re here to see Rage… we love them because no matter what, they are true to themselves and speak their mind”.
After that, I decided to try some of the festival food. I couldn’t find a place to sit. Finally, I sat with a family there taking in the show. I found it odd to find a forty-something year old couple there with their 16-year old son. James and Jennifer Grey from La Palma, California said they loved Rage’s music, and wanted their son to experience what the scene was all about. I have to say, they are the two coolest parents any 16-yeard old could ever have.
Lunch was over and I headed back down to the show. By then, Peruvian rapper Immortal Technique was on stage. Their set was a heavily laced rap format. Although the music seemed redundant at times, what was not, was their message. The sprinkled inspirational prophetic pearls of wisdom between their sets. A message of tolerance, discretion and responsibility. A theme they aimed towards the young men in the crowd. The message was very well received and Immortal Technique received a nice ovation at the end as a result.
Just a few days after giving birth to her sixth child, Lauryn Hill took the stage. Giving birth could have been an excuse for anyone to be off que. In this case, despite a few technical sound issues, she was the ultimate professional. Her tone was emotionally inspiring. The crowd loved her opening number, Killing Me Softly.
First up was Chicago’s favorite alternative sons, Rise Against. Front man, Tim McIlrath took no time in setting the crowd into a high BPM, high energy set that got the mosh pits forming. The crowd reacted often with fist pumping and head banging matching the band’s every movement.
There were some not so subtle political messages, but for the most part, it was high energy alternative/punk rock. Just what the crowd came for.
Rise Against featured such songs as Help Is On The Way, Savior, Prayer Of The Refugee, The Good Left Undone, Audience Of One and Make It Stop.
The most anticipated performance of the night was Muse. Girls were literally in tears when the trio took the stage.
They were screaming for Matthew Bellamy, Dominic Howard and Chris Wolstenholme. Their devoted fans knew what to expect, but others not so familiar with the band were not. The crowd was treated to a show that lived up to the hype. The performance featured an exquisite laser light show, props like gigantic balloon eyeballs; and the lighting was mesmerizing. With that said, then there was the music. Personally, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Perhaps an OMD poppy, feely Mtv inspired synth sound? Instead Matthew stated that they have been Rage fans since they were kids. The crowd ate that up! Maybe they wanted to show their musical talents off to the likes of Tom Morello. All I know is what followed was an impressive demonstration of showmanship and guitar riffs. They went as far as including melodies from Led Zeppelin, the Animals to AC/DC’s Back-in-Black.
The crowd got what they came for as the band performed their hits Time Is Running Out, Uprising, Undisclosed Desires, Map Of The Problematique, Supermassive Black Hole, Starlight and finished with Knights
Rage Against the Machine
Amidst the spectacle that is our current political environment, Rage remains opinionated and defiant as ever. As evidenced by the video playing the big screen before the show. The video was part docudrama, and political humor. The latter of the two would even put a smile on the face of Bill Maher. It was evident that multi-generational fans were there to hear the music and words that represent their hearts and thoughts. Rage has come a long way since Killing In The Name first captured their fans consciousness.
Although the weather had turned, and it was nice and cool, the atmosphere in the Coliseum became electric as Rage took the stage. The 41-year old front man Zack de la Rocha came out like a top with his hair on fire while doing that electric floppy fish dance he does. It was one song into their performance and there were multiple mosh-pits going on. The 60,000 plus screaming fans made the scene seem almost surreal, yet epic.
Guitarist Tom Morello once joked that teenage kids mocked him when they beat him on Guitar Hero. Today was not that day, Morello was in top form. The music was raw, inspiring and emotional. Songs like Testify, People Of The Sun and Bulls On Parade was like having the pied- piper there leading the mosh-pit-happy faithful to a burning man frenzy. The mosh-pit bonfire was a little concerning, but luckily it never got out of control. In the end, the faithful heard all the Rage their hearts came to hear.
If there is any doubt de la Rocha represents a segment of our society, one just needed to hear the reaction to the spoken word of Rage Against the Machine: “There’s a lot of frustrated, suppressed energy in Los Angeles… and it’s living inside a generation desperately looking for a voice, and an outlet.”
L.A. Rising was a show that lived up to the hype in every way, shape and form.