Concert Review: Rock The Bells 2007 feat Rage Against The Machine

 
  • Concert Review: Rock The Bells 2007 feat Rage Against The Machine

    What: Rock the Bells 2007
    When: 07/28/2007
    Where: Randall’s Island
    Who: Rage Against the Machine, Wu-Tang Clan, Cypress Hill, The Roots, Public Enemy, EPMD, Mos Def, Immortal Technique, Jedi Mind Tricks

    As far as musical second chances go for fans, a Rage concert disguised as an all-day hip-hop festival in 2007 is right up there with the best of them.

    Organization proved to be Rock The Bells’ weak point—from changing the order of the performances on the fly, to a shoestring staff trying their damnedest to appease the 30,000+ crowd, to running out of water and beer (plenty of kids were fainting), to getting off the island in which your choices were a $21 ferry or a piling on three free buses back to Harlem in the middle of the night. About 10,000 picked the buses—resulting in me getting home six hours after the show had ended.

    Opting for the VIP tickets were worth it. The pass included a backpack, a poster, free drinks, a t-shirt, access to an icy cold VIP lounge with a personal DJ, access to shade, real stalled bathrooms, and an unobstructed view of the stage from the far right. Celebs piled into the VIP lounge at Coachella a few months ago for Rage’s first reunion show. If you consider Turtle from ‘Entourage’ and Xzibit celebrities, then I guess you could say the same about this show. VIP tickets also came with three SanDisk memory chips—one for your cell, your PDA, and your PC. I popped the cell phone one in after the show and it contained an easter egg message telling you to present the message to a certain person at a certain time to get to meet the bands in an all-access area. Dammit!

    With doors opening at noon and RATM not going on until 9, the crowd was treated to a vast cross-section of artists from the entire lifetime of hip-hop itself. Arriving at four turned out to be a great idea. We caught the entire Public Enemy set, including “Shut Em Down,” “He Got Game,” “Public Enemy #1,” and other classics. Chuck D seemed erred by the crowd’s make-up—95% white—and changed his rhetoric from “fighting the power” to lessons about the history of black music. Flava Flav also took a large chunk of the group’s set to push his reality show and upcoming roast. He also introduced the crowd to his children—cutting off an introduction to the group’s next song. The group was not on the same page.

    Next was The Roots who played for an hour straight, followed by Cypress Hill who rapped about hits from da bong, smoking joints, weed, bongs, pot, getting high, and something about being a rock superstar.

    Wu-Tang Clan—like Public Enemy—was surprised by the crowd’s ethnicity as well but was less polite about it. They kept asking the crowd for their energy and promised to give it back in song. They also were disappointed in the crowd’s reaction, pointing out how when they come back home to NYC they expect the best. After a long tribute to ODB with “Shimmy Shimmy,” they closed with “Cream” and a full, nine verse version of their 1997 epic, “Triumph.” I was worried about Wu-Tang after hearing about mediocre sets in the past, usually involving a dozen rappers singing 30 second medleys of old hits followed by 45 minute big booty contests.

    Then came part two of the night—Rage Against The Machine. The sun had gone down and the crowd was completely different. “We are Rage Against The Machine from Los Angeles, California.” The group mixed the set up a bit, replacing “Bombtrack” and “No Shelter” with “Tire Me” and “Down Rodeo.” “Calm Like a Bomb” felt slower and more menacing. Tom Morello was getting tremendous feedback from the speakers, creating sounds way off the charts. Fans tore down the fences during the chorus of “Killing In The Name” and I saw a kid crack his skull open. “Wake Up” featured an anti-war and anti-Bush speech in which the group clarified their reported position regarding Bush from “should be assassinated” (as “reported” on Fox News) to “tried, hung, and shot like the war criminal he is” and bemoaned the suffering of American soldiers and their families and Iraqi citizens fighting for “an empire that needs to start wars to keep going.”

    Setlist:
    Testify
    Bulls On Parade
    People of the Sun
    Know Your Enemy
    Vietnow
    Bullet in the Head
    Down Rodeo
    Tire Me
    Guerrilla Radio
    Calm Like a Bomb
    Sleep Now In The Fire
    Wake Up/Bush Speech

    Freedom/Township Rebellion
    Killing In the Name

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