August 9, 2022

Rage Against the Machine + Run the Jewels played Madison Square Garden

At long last, Rage Against the Machine and Run the Jewels finally brought their "Public Service Announcement" tour to Madison Square Garden. It was unlike anything I've ever seen.

Typically, a Run the Jewels show will start with Killer Mike announcing that they're here to "burn this motherfucker to the ground." However, on the first of five nights at MSG, El-P walked on and said "we've been waiting a long time to open this show with this song" before the duo snapped into "Call Ticketron." Almost forgetting about the time they opened for Jack White at the same legendary venue, a show in which they brought out Zach de la Rocha for his guest verse on "Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck) (which did not happen tonight), the enigmatic rap duo were in top form bouncing across the stage to deliver their onslaught of hits that have helped make them one of the best rap groups in the game. Never letting their energy burn off, Mike and El were ready to bring it for El's hometown show and not about to let anything get in their way. Spitting absolute fire bar after fire bar, watching the two trade rhymes is always a total joy, like watching best friends have endless fun on stage, their exchanges perfectly timed and delivered with wit, humor, but first and foremost, total force. At this stage in their career, RTJ are at the top of festival posters around the world, so seeing them in the opening slot doesn't do them the justice they deserve, but they still shone with magnificent star-power and it was clear just how excited they were to be opening for the legends in Rage Against the Machine. For nearly an hour, they wasted no time and delivered a crash course of their biggest and best, only just beginning to set the stage for what was to come. In terms of a first act, it's hard to think of anyone to top Jamie and Mike. Run those jewels fast and forever, my friends.

As if Run the Jewels weren't enough, the second the lights dimmed and the four men known as Rage Against the Machine took the stage, anticipation hit a paramount and all hell broke loose. Never have I seen such power come from the stage and transfer into a crowd, taking over with sheer force and of a magnitude unlike anything I've ever seen or experienced. From up above, the floor looked like absolute chaos, pandemonium on a legendary scale, like two and a half years worth of pent-up energy finally being released. Even while restricted to a seated position on stage, the command of de la Rocha was unmatched, the entire arena in his tight grasp as he lead us all through an unbelievably cathartic show, full of all their greatest hits that proved the wait was not only worth it, but even better than expected. The band was loud, Morello's guitar blasting away at 11 while Tim Commerford's bass let out an unsettling rumble that set the mood and helped direct the emotion of the crowd all night long. When "Bulls on Parade" kicked in for the third song of the night, it was instantly frantic and the sudden jolt that was the first of several moments of utter elation and a pure music high that I've never seen a band deliver before. It was shocking to hear the classic so early in the set, but really moved the bar to the upper echelon and the energy remained atomic for the rest of the night. The set was evenly mixed from their career, their three '90s landmark albums all seeing great representation, and all of it was met equally by the crowd. Tom's incendiary solo during "Guerrilla Radio" was larger than life, his dazzling tricks always mesmerizing and felt prolific in the setting carrying each song with the same weight as Zach's relentless and unforgiving rhymes. Everything about the night felt accentuated and the intensity of the crowd only seemed to grow over the course of the night. The band felt it and seemed to feed off the energy, upping the anti with each track until the tension and euphoria felt on the verge of collapse. "Calm Like a Bomb" escalated things a bit more, the build-up rippling through the crowd and releasing a beam of energy as de la Rocha shouted "I think I heard a shot" over the band's punishing breakdown. When they immediately transitioned into "Sleep Now in the Fire," things reached yet another high. For a band that plays this hard and this heavy twenty plus years past their actual songwriting days, seeing this all live was a dream come true and more, the band proving their legacy and shutting down any possible doubters within seconds. "Freedom" and "Township Rebellion" once again cranked up the intensity of the night and when the band finally kicked in to "Killing in the Name," it felt like the Garden was combusting, ascending to a new level of sublime showmanship. Every single person was on their feet to shout along to the track's dim chorus and as the song reached its climax, the house lights came on (a move I've never seen before) and the entire arena descended into absolute chaos as the final "fuck you, I won't do what you tell me" became the new chant and holt scripture for all of those in attendance. The captivation and control of the band was truly unparalleled, equally the heaviest, but also an incredibly life-affirming show. After two and a half years of building up expectations for a band that already held one of the highest ranks on my bucket list, Rage not only exceed my expectations, but reset anything I could've hoped for and proved that somethings are truly worth waiting for and somethings really are better than your wildest dreams.

01 "Bombtrack"
02 "People of the Sun"
03 "Bulls on Parade"
04 "Bullet in the Head"
05 "Testify"
06 "Take the Power Back"
07 "Wake Up"
08 "Guerrilla Radio"
09 "Down Rodeo"
10 "Know Your Enemy"
11 "Calm Like a Bomb"
12 "Sleep Now in the Fire"
13 "Born of a Broken Man"
14 "War Within a Breath"
15 "The Ghost of Tom Joad" [Bruce Springsteen cover]
16 "Freedom"
17 "Township Rebellion"
18 "Killing in the Name"

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