Rage Take Noise To Streets — And Letterman Show

Police closed a section of New York's 53rd Street for the political hard rockers' performance in the rain.

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

excerpt).

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

date.

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

Abu-Jamal.

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 Zeppelin–like 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

the stage.

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

Name."

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.)