NEW YORK Rage Against the Machine took their populist brand
of hard rock to the streets Tuesday night for a taping of "Late Show
With David Letterman."
As police patrolled both sides of the block, the band played a five-song
set on a stage outside the Ed Sullivan Theater on 53rd Street in Manhattan.
Several thousand excited fans some of whom gathered in front of
the stage, but most of whom were relegated to a cordoned-off area hundreds
of feet away endured a steady rain as they jumped, thrashed, moshed
and shouted while the band played.
"Their music is filled with anger and destruction, but they use it in a
positive way," Matt Rubenstein, 21, of Hartford, Conn., said.
The band appeared undeterred by Tuesday's downpour; stagehands removed
a tarpaulin from drummer Brad Wilk's kit only moments before the set began.
Besides their current single, "Guerrilla Radio" (RealAudio
excerpt), the group also blasted through "Testify" and such older
crowd favorites as "Bulls on Parade," "People of the Sun" and "Killing
in the Name" (RealAudio
The "Guerrilla Radio" performance, which singer Zack de la Rocha introduced
by shouting, "Free Mumia Abu-Jamal," was broadcast several hours later
on "Late Show." A portion of "Bulls on Parade" played over the late-night
talk show's closing credits.
The performance coincided with the release of Rage Against the Machine's
new album, The Battle of Los Angeles, which continues the band's
tradition of unleashing stinging commentary on U.S. culture and politics.
Two songs on the album, "Guerrilla Radio" and "Voice of the Voiceless,"
address the efforts of death-row inmate Abu-Jamal to gain a new
trial. For the broadcast, Zack de la Rocha wore a white T-shirt printed
with a picture of Abu-Jamal.
A former radio journalist and Black Panther, Abu-Jamal was convicted in
1982 of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. His supporters
say procedural errors, witness tampering and racial bias tainted his
first trial. Rage Against the Machine helped pay for an unsuccessful
appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court with money they raised during a Jan. 28
benefit concert in East Rutherford, N.J. That performance also featured
the Beastie Boys, Bad Religion and Black Star. A previous appeal has
at least temporarily saved Abu-Jamal from a Dec. 2 execution
Karina Tarbi, 34, visiting New York from Paris, held a large sign imploring
the courts to "Free Mumia" as she watched the taping.
"They're very hard-core artists," Tarbi said. "They're yelling about the
discrimination of the trial."
The National Fraternal Order of Police has called for a boycott of Rage
Against the Machine, Sting and others to protest the artists' support of
The music that the bandmembers performed Tuesday seemed as colossal as
the buildings that surrounded them: It was loud, it rumbled, it drove a
metallic spike into their listeners' ears. The songs were heavy but agile,
from the Led Zeppelinlike bliss of "Guerrilla Radio" to the anthemic
outro "Killing in the Name" ("Fuck you/ I won't do what you tell me") to
the pile-driving riff that defines "Testify."
Guitarist Tom Morello, wearing a tan T-shirt and blue baseball cap,
handled his guitar as if it were his lover. He unleashed his blend of
bleeps, squeaks and distortions with his hands and his guitar
at various positions. He sometimes moved and bobbed as intensely as did
de la Rocha, who's known for his jumping and high-legged jogging across
As is his custom, de la Rocha said little to the audience, save the
Abu-Jamal comment and some unintelligible words during "Killing in the
Fans hungry for a good view of the band climbed atop cars, Dumpsters and
even sewer pipes for a better look. Others chose merely to listen, silently
rocking and singing along.
Before the performance, some fans behind the guardrails chanted, "Let us
in!" At another point, they reprised the popular Woodstock '99 chant
"Show your t--s," which they directed at two women looking down from a
sixth-story window. They also screamed at several fans obstructing their
views with umbrellas.
Mike Felner, 20, of New Haven, Conn., said he didn't feel threatened by
the crowd, calling the show "a blast."
"It was all in fun," he said.
Rage are scheduled to perform live on MTV at 5 p.m. EST Wednesday (Nov.
3) during a half-hour show dubbed "Rage TV." The cable channel will
broadcast a one-hour Rage concert special, taped Oct. 27 in Mexico City,
at 11 p.m. EST Friday. (SonicNet is a division of MTV Interactive.)