RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE @ DENVER COLISEUM | 8/27/08
Live blog: 11:10 a.m. Wednesday, August 27, 2008: It's just after 11 a.m., and things are just getting underway at the Denver Coliseum. State Radio just took the stage and is in the midst of playing an energetic set in front of a half-filled arena. Folks are steadily filing in, while members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War -- some in all black T-shirts emblazoned with their name and some in full military regalia -- are milling about backstage and gathering in clusters to organize themselves for the planned post-show march. The general vibe thus far is mellow. The overall feeling at this point among folks is mostly one of shared excitement to see Rage, with an slight, underlying sense of anxiety, wondering what, exactly, is going to happen later on in the day when the post-show march takes place.
Between songs, State Radio's frontman, Chad Urmston, briefly engaged the crowd. "I think we all realize that this is the real deal," he said. "Not what's going on down at the Pepsi Center. If we hold Obama to a high standard, we can hopefully turn this country around... It's a dream for us to share the stage with Rage."
12:25 p.m., the Coup: Like trumpets aimed at the walls of Jericho, the Coup is in the midst of a fiery set, performing with a defined and focused intensity and urgency, as if it is single-handedly trying to end the war itself. "After we leave here, we're going to march to show the Democratic party that they don't have a strict enough line on ending the war," said an impassioned Boots Riley. "What they're talking about doing is going to take years -- and people are dying!" Although the band settled into a more light hearted groove by the third song, the act is serving as an extremely fitting precursor to Flobots and ultimately Rage Against the Machine. The energy in the arena, which is now edging closer and closer to capacity, is steadily building.
12:40 p.m., the Flobots: Jamie Laurie and company are on stage right now. The most stirring part of the act's set isn't how well the outfit is performing (they're furiously on point), rather the rapt attention of the audience it has commanded. At a typical Flobots show, there's smiles and a tangible sense of exhuberance, with people mouthing the words, nodding their heads and dancing along.
Here this afternoon, countless members of the audience are wearing stoic expressions, completely riveted. Just before launching into "I.R.A.Q.," Laurie, clad in a T-shirt bearing the Iraq Veterans Against the War insignia, he noted how proud he is to be on hand in support of the organization. "Everywhere we go across the country, we run into servicemen who tell us how much they love what we're doing. They tell us they love our music, but even more, they believe in the message. The message is out there: Invading Iraq wasn't our idea. They are listening, and things are changing." At the end of "There's a War Going On for Your Mind," Laurie asserts that "We are the insurgents!" Indeed. Up next: Rage Against the Machine
2:20 p.m., Rage Against the Machine: Finally the moment everyone has been waiting for. In a natural segue from the Flobots set, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War briefly appeared on stage before Rage started seriously tearing the roof off this motherfucker. The stands are literally shaking beneath my feet.
It's astounding that a band that has been dormant for so long is still as powerful as it was in the beginning. Running through fevered versions of "Guerrilla Radio" and "Bulls On Parade," with Zach de la Rocha stalking the stage like a rabid pit bull, Rage is proving that it's still every bit as vital (and angry) today as it was in the '90s. Fists are raised and the entire arena is bouncing up and down in unison.
Dressed head to toe in white bearing a guitar emblazoned with the American flag, Wayne Kramer from the MC5 just joined Rage on stage. "Forty years ago we went to Chicago to protest a war that we were lied into," he says. "Today in Denver we're here to protest a war that we were lied into." And with that, the band and Kramer proceed to "Kick Out the Jams," motherfucker!
Looking around the venue, there's a few empty seats but not many. Just noticed a sign on the railing advising that "rail jumpers will be ejected!" Holy shit! They just kicked into "Killing in the Name," and the crowd is going absolutely bananas. As long as I live, I don't think I'll ever be able to exhume from my memory the experience of seeing (and hearing) an entire arena chanting along to refrain of "Killing in the Name" ("Fuck you! I won't do what you tell me!").
Looks like that was the last song. What a way to end the set. Everyone seems completely exhilarated as they exit the building, heading for their cars or preparing to join the march to the Pepsi Center, intent on making their voices heard -- all with the words of Rage still ringing in their ears: "What better place than here? What better time than now?"
Personal Bias: Don't really have any, really. I generally loathe rap metal, but I still have a soft spot for Rage Against the Machine.
Random Note: Eric Fuller from To Be Eaten was spotted in the front row pumping his fist during Rage's set and I ran into Tyler Campo from Cowboy Curse who was working as a volunteer at the ticket table.
By the Way: There was no need for that "rail jumpers" sign. This crowd was very notably restrained -- to that end, I'm sure that the fact that there was no beer for sale certainly helped account for that.