PROPHETS OF RAGE – Bergen –
The musical ensemble known as Prophets of Rage, which is comprised of members of the renowned Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave as well as Cypress Hill and Public Enemy, are currently touring Europe and paid the lovely city of Bergen a visit on a warm and sunny Wednesday night. Fans and critics often refer to these guys as a super group, but whereas many so-called super groups often suck and hardly appear like a proper band at all, Prophets of Rage actually felt like a gathering of likeminded souls with a shared artistic vision last night.
Not really knowing what to expect other than a good time and (admittedly) a trip down memory lane listening to some RATM classics in a live setting, what yours truly was not prepared for was the level of energy and enthusiasm that coursed through the entire performance. The insane amount of energy that the band poured into their performance and the way in which the audience reacted and responded to witnessing Prophets of Rage live on stage was overwhelming. The venue was packed and it must have been a sold-out gig. Everyone was pumped and roaring to go. At 8 PM, the venue went dark and DJ Lord walked onto the stage, which was essentially the start of the show with him scratching records and playing bits and pieces from pretty much everything between Black Sabbath and Slayer and further on to the Star Wars theme. Some people clearly enjoyed it and found it to be cool, but personally I found it rather tedious and those fifteen or twenty minutes that it lasted felt like an eternity. Having said that, DJ Lord is obviously great at what he does, but again, it did not really add or contribute anything to the overall experience. Following that, the remaining five musicians walked on stage and launched into Public Enemy’s “Prophets of Rage”.
While that one sounded flat and uninspired, things picked up with a couple of hard-hitting RATM tunes in the shape of “Testify” and “Take the Power Back”. Next up was “Hail to the Chief” from last year’s debut offering and there is no other word for it than awful. Despite their best efforts, it also sucked last night. The same goes for “Living on the 110” and “Unfuck the World” from the aforementioned album, which appeared later in the set. That stuff simply pales in comparison to nearly every other song that was aired in terms of musical quality and depth. In addition, the Trump-bashing is annoying and feels pretty fucking old by now in that one is constantly exposed to that everywhere these days. The political slogans and messages associated with the band’s act seem a little one-sided and one-dimensional, and…well, old hat, to tell you the truth, but regardless of whether those aspects of Prophets of Rage resonate with one or not is beside the point here. Either way, the band’s own material killed the momentum. Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” sounded a little flat and the medleys consisting of “Insane in the Brain”/”Bring the Noise”/”Ain’t Going Out”/”Welcome to the Terrordome” and “Can’t Truss It”/”When The Shit Goes Down”/”Jump Around” were uninspired although they did have their fun moments. Luckily, the set list primarily consisted of RATM tracks and those were the ones that truly made the crowd go wild and lose their heads. Cuts such as “Sleep Now in the Fire”, “Guerrilla Radio”, “Bullet in the Head”, “Know Your Enemy”, “Bulls on Parade”, “Killing in the Name”, and “Freedom” were bombastic and riddled with high-octane adrenaline. The rendition of “How I Could Just Kill a Man” (Cypress Hill) was pretty wicked too. The Van Halen cover (“Cathedral”) was a fun idea but Audioslave’s “Like a Stone” lacked spirit.
The chemistry and interplay between Tom Morello (guitar), Brad Wilk (drums, percussion), and Tim Commerford (bass, backing vocals) was impressive and a joy to behold. The three of them are a tight and charismatic musical unit and they infuse their live material with groove. However, the vocals courtesy of B-Real and Chuck D left something to be desired. The RATM tunes require much more passion, emotional intensity, and conviction than the vocalists were able to channel into the songs, so there is room for improvement there.
It was quite apparent that these dudes enjoy what they do and one did not get the feeling that one was merely watching some nostalgia act, but inevitably it did end up feeling like a trip down memory lane and I could not help feeling slightly sentimental while watching the group plow through all that RATM material. It certainly took me back to my formative years when I was a pimple-faced and frustrated teenager. The highlights of the evening were “Testify”, “How I Could Just Kill a Man”, “Bullet to the Head”, and “Bulls on Parade”; they sounded vigorous, muscular, and intense, and the crowd went ape-shit and ate it all up. An entertaining and action-packed concert for sure, but not without its flaws.