Saturday night Tom Morello brought his solo performance to the ornate and storied Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles fresh off the announcement that his eponymous outfit Rage Against The Machine will be temporarily reuniting for a series of shows along the U.S.-Mexican border, culminating in a grandstanding performance at next year’s Coachella Festival in Indio, CA.
Chicago rapper Vic Mensa and new rock outfit 93 Punx were a fitting choice to have opened up the show, and the pit on Morello’s tour. Both are staunch and unapologetic in their political stances and distaste for the current administration (93 Punx is also performing in front of I.C.E. detention centers in LA and abroad), Mensa also appears on Morello’s solo effort The Atlas Underground (“We Don’t Need You”) as well as having the RATM guitarist featured on his album (93 Punx and Vic Mensa) “United States of Evil”. Saturday’s show was well-curated for those in attendance to get a little bit of everything except a cameo by RATM’s frontman Zach de la Rocha who was there backstage to show support to his longtime friend and collaborator.
Mensa and company tore through a 30-minute set featuring songs from their debut album 93 Punx & Vic Mensa to a well-attended and receptive early crowd. Blazing through the aforementioned album’s lead-off track “Definition of a Fuck-Boi” the Punx wasted no time in making themselves known to a largely uninitiated crowd there to support Tom and hear RATM anthems that defined our 90’s experiences. Usually comprised of Vic (vocals), Dave Coresh (vocals), and Dru Decaro (guitar), the Punx trio had additional support this tour rounding out their sound by adding a much-needed bassist (Snake Child) and drums (Don Dizzle) to truly bring more punch, piss, and vigor to their sonic slam-dance.
Flying through their summer, subversive single “Camp America” to the anthemic appreciation to the parking lot brawl “Fistfight” they capped their set by collectively saying “Goodbye 2 Heartbreak” which Vic unfurls a scroll of contemporary, contentious subject’s that threaten the harmony within the diaspora of American culture. From Catholic priests to Instagram, from “day-one’s” to suicide, and rape to addiction, these topical odes of unrest are all brought to the forefront and addressed with contempt on how we all need to cope with them by saying goodbye to them…Together.
The man of the hour emerged amongst his people, literally appearing solo in the center of the room on an impromptu riser truly allowing him to connect with his crowd of adoring appreciators. After a couple of cuts (“Lead Poisoning” and “Where It’s At Ain’t What It Is”) he joined his traveling drummer and keyboard/guitarist on stage to play select “heavy metal bangers” (his words, not mine) from his catalog of solo records, Audioslave anthems, and a RATM favorite. Morello championed his own sound which was more akin to the Bomb Squad inspired the production of 90’s rap than what his contemporaries were generating at the time.
Now, his same approach to the guitar, effects, and experimentation due to various guitar pedals adorning his custom board his relevancy is solidified by attuning his sound perfectly to the EDM wave that has tsunamied the charts the past decade; truly uniting two generations of music lovers. With his 96-year-old mother in attendance and smiling from the balcony, he powered through “Like A Stone” by his former band Audioslave and transitioning to an acoustic set that was more Irish-American folky than funky, he dedicated a ballad to his late friend and bandmate Chris Cornell by asking for “pin drop silence”. He ended his set by inviting as many crowd members as possible to join him on stage to cap the night off with one of RATM’s most memorable exultations of unrest: “Killing In The Name Of” followed by “Power To The People”.
Morello once said in an interview: “I’ve always been on a personal mission to save the guitar”, and by once again showing and proving his versatile, distinct and unreplaceable style of playing coupled with his seasoned, showmanship reinforcing why the older ones of us in the crowd fell in love with him in the 20th century and why the younger ones in the crowd are going to in the 21st.