By Jacqueline Howell
The Prophets of Rage have hit the road (and the skies) for a large scale tour- there are 27! dates left so you have no excuse to miss this- bringing a much needed, couldn’t-be more- timely-message of, well, RAGE. But in case you aren’t clear, this is not Rage (Against the Machine) under a different name or some kind of cover. This is actually the rarest of things, a risk, a gamble, a big deal. A Supergroup.
That’s what this is.
That’s what these guys are.
For the price of one ticket, you are getting a new collaboration from masters of a number of the most innovative genres of our goddamn modern age (pre and post the 21st century).
Prophets of Rage is Tom Morello, who can shred better than your most over-hyped metal god and doesn’t even seem to break a sweat, Chuck D (who needs NO introduction) the tireless and full of life B-Real, drummer Brad Wilk & Bassist Tim Commeford (Rage) and DJ Lord (Public Enemy). We know Chuck D is the heaviest rap voice (and mind) that has ever lived, a title unchallenged. What is insane though, is that B-Real’s own distinct and differently pitched drawl is a perfect contrast to the legend who came before him. It works so well. And who else could stand in and do Rage Against the Machine Songs? No one but these guys, they are the dream team.
Prophets of Rage are bringing their hardest hits of all three of these iconic, different flavored groups and their own musical touches to this inspired collaboration.
Prophets of Rage is not some name that’s hacked together, Rage-but-not-Rage style. Know (be reminded) that “Prophets of Rage” is a Public Enemy song. Rage’s Zach de la Rocha has given the project his express blessing.
Timing is everything. In life, in music.
And the world utterly NEEDs Prophets of Rage right now to blast out the cobwebs off of culture and music and remind us what music is for.
Music never needed to know what other people thought on social media or blogs or even magazines before creating new sounds. Music is a direct line from them to us, uncorruptable and true.
And the show is a non-stop, energetic tour-de-force that gives fair play and time to each of these groups’ catalogs- rich with serious gold. No one in the world would hear their music suffer if spit by Chuck D, if anything, it’s given new life. The night moves smoothly back and forth from the music of Public Enemy to Rage to Cypress Hill and includes a couple of great covers, Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad” (helped out by AWOL Nation’s frontman Aaron Bruno) which is a great side trip and still fits the overall tone somehow. And something remarkable happens in the life of a Toronto audience that’s long on concert experience, jaded, even, and short on the capacity to surprise: Dave Grohl walks out like nothing to do a quick number of MC5’s “Kick out the Jams”. The thrill stadium-wide, then rippling out to friends at home and beyond, is real, and makes us wonder, why no one has ever done this for us before? Not even when bands known to work together are sharing a bill? Why have things gotten so stale?
But this is different. Prophets of Rage are among those musicians with real, quiet power who are doing it their own way. It’s a new world, a world where all the corporate gatekeepers seem to be shut out, and musicians can jam with each other just for us, just because they vibe off each other, just because we are in the right place at the right time. B-Real is in a Public Enemy hooded shirt that we’re dying for. And Chuck D returns the nod wearing a Cypress Hill T-shirt provided by a fan. This is not your average tour. Or night. Or music. This new band in itself is revolutionary and made by people who already reinvented the game at least once each already. And are still innovating. Tonight’s Toronto show is live-streamed on the band’s Facebook page for those watching from home.
And tonight, like every night, there’s The Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” merged with Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” which really shouldn’t work, but does because those songs are both killer jams locked into a sound that could only come from New York City in the 80s. The circle is complete. The Beastie Boys, who’ve had to leave the road forever, are still included in this party, and this song seems like a big nod to them and their place in things. There’s a brotherhood of musicians that is unstoppable in the face of indifference, bad politics, media noise, foolish hype. Because who is louder than musicians? Who drops it harder? Who is cooler? Who is tougher? No one.
Tom Morello stops the show only once: to tell the audience, that, as is customary on this tour, they’ve earmarked a percentage of the proceeds from the show to a local charity to help the hungry in our city. As we cheer, we wonder, why does no one do that? When it seems so relatively simple? And so, our expectations are raised. And we suddenly begin to remember that we are allowed to ask more of our musicians, especially those taking in far more per night than this band (whose tickets tonight start at just $20 and end in the $80 range, when other band’s who are millionaires nosebleed seats start at $120.) And we remember we can ask more from ourselves. It’s awesome, actually awe-some, and it’s inspiring. What a musician can do from that stage through both art and words is infinite.
Out of Supergroups and in this new and important era of bands coming back out on to the road that needs them, something new is created. Forget the album cycle, the pre-rigged chart, the McMusic and the factory Frankenstein fuckery that goes on to make a pop song at the moment. Remember this shit? Remember all this? Better yet, discover it, if you weren’t there before. And this is just a sampler. This is just an overview of all these groups’ music and all the covers they might want to do or stuff they could create in time. Look backwards and look ahead.
The songs flow, seamless and ebb-less, and the fans are not just told to stay woke, they are woke in a way they’ve maybe never been. Or not for 20 years. Others are stoned beyond comprehension, they’re doomed to miss Grohl and miss Killing in the Name, they 90s-Alternative-danced and whipped their hair just so, and blazed too close to the sun, too much too soon. It’s that kind of night. They won’t care. They were here.
These Prophets of Rage say, Nobody for President. (People can demand change. Someone else. Reforms. Protest. Do we?)
They say, Make Canada Rage Again. (Canada’s rarely raged but the personalized banner and hats for sale, nicely stealing Trump’s dumb and ill-conceived slogan are yet more thoughtful touches that most bands do not bother with, and mean something to us.)
They rap, those great, iconic raps, about all the concerns of their original band’s exact moment they changed culture and music forever- don’t let the media or the state of music today tell you any different. Noise, clutter, crap will always try to drown truth and truthtellers. But doesn’t last like this music does. Prophets are prophets because they do it all sounding as fresh as the day they laid those beats down, and knew they had something. And, we notice much later, they do it all without relying on the words that inflame, the bitches and the hateful N-word. Even though these men are more trustworthy with live grenades than anyone we’ve ever seen up there. But they don’t need any tricks, they are the real deal.
And it’s time for a reality check in music.
Today the Prophets of Rage’s new song, The Party is Over, is #1 on the rock charts.
It’s a new day. Get on out there.
With special thanks to Chuck D.
Prophets of Rage
Miuzi Weighs a Ton
People of the Sun
Take the Power Back
Hand on the Pump / Can’t Truss It / Insane in the Brain / Bring the Noise / I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That / Welcome to the Terrordome
Sleep Now in the Fire
Cochise / She Watch Channel Zero?!
The Ghost of Tom Joad (Bruce Springsteen cover) (with Aaron Bruno)
Bullet in the Head
Cathedral (Van Halen cover)
Shut ‘Em Down
Know Your Enemy
The Party’s Over
No Sleep Till Brooklyn / Fight the Power
Bulls on Parade
Kick Out the Jams (MC5 cover) (with Dave Grohl)
Killing in the Name