L.A.’s politically minded metal-punk-rap band Rage Against the Machine followed recent festival appearances at Woodstock ’99 and the Mt. Fuji Festival in Japan with their first headlining concert of 1999 at Honolulu’s Blaisdell Arena, where the quartet effectively packaged songs from their seven-year, multiplatinum-selling career along with two strong tunes tabbed for their forthcoming third album.
Twelve-song show opened with “Bombtrack,” the incendiary lead track from the group’s memorable 1992 self-named debut, with the band sounding a little rusty and looking just a bit tentative. But the enthusiastic welcome accorded the band and the unrelenting mosh pit, quickly changed the band’s collective mood.
The two new songs were among the highlights of the one-hour, 45-minute production. “Testify” (a working title, according to band members) found dreadlocked singer-shouter Zack de la Rocha warning that “He who controls the past, controls the future,” while skilled guitarist Tom Morello produced strange and wonderful feedback-laced sounds from his instrument.
Of the older Rage tracks, 1992’s “Know Your Enemy” and “Bullet in the Head” created the usual mosh-pit bedlam, as did 1996’s “Bulls on Parade” and “People of the Sun,” from No. 1 album “Evil Empire” (Epic).
None of the bombastic tunes boasted even one chord change, and powerhouse drummer Wilk fell behind the beat more than once, but in the grand and overwhelming atmosphere of a solid Rage Against the Machine live performance, those are trivial complaints.
Gotham’s blues bastards the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, whose next release is due from Matador Records in September, opened the show with a blistering hourlong effort, though it took a few songs to win over the skeptical crowd.