Rage Against The Machine @ Finsbury Park

United Kingdom United Kingdom | 11 June 2010

Gallows open proceedings like the hell-bent punk heads they are and show no fear in front of the 40,000 sun kissed revellers. The Brits run through their better known ‘hits’ - ‘In the Belly of a Shark’ and ‘London is the Reason’ - before hitting the first Clash cover of the night ‘I Fought The Law’ which sets the mosh pit ablaze. Roots Manuva tries an altogether more laidback approach, but the south London rapper can only look on bemused as his chilled, award winning hip-hop vibe misses hitting the hard notes with the masses today. Unlike Gogol Bordello who feel crafted for nothing other than this slot; their wild, chaotic, ensemble of musical influences strikes a dissonant chord with the now noticeably heaving Finsbury Park.

Like a spitting image puppet, the animated, stiff nipples and crew cut features of Simon Cowell appear on screen to jeering cries and pantomime boos. Voiced by comic legend Mark Steele the cartoon Cowell welcomes proceedings: “It gives me great displeasure to introduce the greatest rock band in the world, Rage Against The Machine."

‘Testify’ sets the pace for an electrifying first half that doesn’t let you break for a single breath; Zack De La Rocha fired with the glint of pride in his eyes as he surveys a sea of fists and expectant fans. But the show isn’t about the band taking the credit, and for a brief musical interlude the four-piece introduce Jon and Tracy Morter, the triumphant campaigners who conceived the idea and in doing so made this whole event possible. Handing over the £162,000 cheque raised by record sales to Shelter, they give a humble thumbs up to those who made the difference.

The night has the faintest echoes of The Clash’s defining moments in Victoria Park as part of the ‘Rock Against Racism’ concert over 30 years previous. Even if the message is less politically pressing, the band take time to thank their aforementioned British predecessors and deliver a blistering version of ‘White Riot’ before storming ahead with their now old fan favourites ‘Guerrilla Radio’ and ‘Sleep Now In The Fire’.

The short set is interrupted in high flow and the crowd restlessly waits for what they know can only be one encore - the song that made this all happen. The video screens fire up and begin tracking the headlines and betting that led up to moment Rage Against The Machine got their first UK number one, beating Joe McElderry’s ‘The Climb’ by over 50,000 sales.

Rage Against The Machine can’t put a step wrong now as the first beats to ‘Killing in the Name’ drop, the chanting and wild rapture of over 40,000 people culminates in that anthemic final refrain, bringing to a close an evening that celebrated the dream of over half a million music fans. A monumental grass roots affair that galvanised the will of the people and proves the fire that keeps the spirit of rebellion alive can still take the power back, even for the one day. In the words of Tom Morello; “Fucking up the system never felt so good!"

By Christopher Swindells.

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