My girlfriend and I didn’t manage to get tickets, so we were resigned to listening from our balcony, just the other side of the railway line from the park. The warm and still Saturday evening had meant we could hear the RATM soundcheck in perfect clarity, but on Sunday sadly the wind was blowing the wrong way, so we couldn’t hear anything.
So I chose to head into Finsbury Park, and found a good spot on the hill to be able to hear the later bands at least, in the company of hundreds of others. This meant that I got to enjoy a short but sweet Gogol Bordello set, which was as manic as the previous time that I saw them. It started and finished in the same way, too, with Ultimate kicking things off before Not A Crime seemed to get the whole park jumping, and things were closed off with the bonkers waltzing of Start Wearing Purple, that never fails to bring a smile. Eugene Hütz appeared to be avoiding the chat between the songs, instead concentrating on getting on with the songs. A good plan, perhaps, in view of the lack of time, and they were still great fun even from a great distance away.
Gogol Bordello setlist
Not A Crime
Immigraniada (We’re Coming Rougher)
Break the Spell
Start Wearing Purple
Prior to Rage Against The Machine, things outside got a little ugly, frankly. A large number of people – still only in the low hundreds, not the thousands that some people were tweeting about last night – were acting out something of a running battle with the stewards and police, and as RATM finally kicked off, about fifteen minutes late, more and more were trying to scale the fence.
The incendiary opening to the set – a rousing Testify, followed by the monstrous rumble and roar that is Bombtrack, that wasn’t the first time that the big crowd joined in with an awful lot of the vocals – only served to inflame some of those outside the fence, and it was interesting to note that Zack de la Rocha was seemingly well aware of what was going on, with a reference made to those “at the back door” made at the close of Bombtrack. The whole set was pretty damned tight, too, although it was notable that it was still the first album material – which made up the bulk of the set – that was the most powerful. One of the two big surprises in the set was an airing of Township Rebellion, which prompted Zack’s first rant of the night, dedicating the song to the people of Gaza.
People of the Sun
Know Your Enemy
Bulls On Parade
Bullet In The Head
Sleep Now In The Fire
Killing In The Name
The second came after yet more unsavoury scenes by the fence, where a large group attempted to storm the fence, and somehow it was eventually agreed, from what I can tell, that it was going to be a whole lot simpler to simply open the fence. So a couple of hundred additional people got in, and I got in just in time to be able to witness the handover of the oversized cheque to Shelter, and the appearance of the two people who started the whole Facebook campaign. But it was the choice of cover afterwards that was a surprise – after Zack’s nod to British punk bands, it was a storming take on The Clash’s White Riot. Not unsurprisingly, many in the crowd knew all the words!
The final run in the set was pretty storming, too, and I’ll even let off the drum solo during Sleep Now In The Fire, and the rather glaring omission of long-time live staple Wake Up. But it was Freedom that was the highlight of the whole night, for me – a reminder of the near-perfect synthesis between political and musical fury that only Rage Against The Machine in recent years have been able to manage. I’m just glad I wasn’t in the middle of the ‘pit for that – the whole place absolutely exploded when it kicked in after Zack’s roar of “Your Anger Is A Gift”. Needless to say, the big close was a run through the song that inspired this gig, after a somewhat over the top intro that saw the beaten X-Factor track played and some text on the screens, and I’d be surprised if the crowd bellowing back the words to Killing In The Name couldn’t be heard on the other side of the city.
Yeah, it was a pretty damned good gig. I’m sure some of the attention will focus on the minor scuffles outside, but in the main this gig was a celebration, and Rage certainly appeared to be all smiles, and loving every minute of it. No new material (and no Wake Up, either), but I wasn’t expecting it, and I still doubt that there ever will be. Well, I say that on Monday morning (when the bulk of this was written), and by the evening Zack is musing that there might be after all! You know what, actually? The fire is still there, as are the skills. Bring it on.