Rage Against the Machine - Finsbury Park, London - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Rage Against the Machine - Finsbury Park, London

We all remember where we were when we heard the news. I was travelling back from Ealing after having a pre-Christmas meal with the family. Then it was announced on the radio. Rage Against the Machine had beaten Joe McElderry to the Christmas number one single of 2009. I'm not going to say it changed me forever but it did prove to be a serious win for devout music fans across the country, showing that people can still make a difference in mainstream media and help raise a serious amount of money for charity as well.

But weeks prior to the victory, Rage Against the Machine announced that if they were to be given the coveted Christmas number one spot, they would then play a free gig in London to celebrate. A promise they honoured with more than just a show at Brixton Academy. On June 6, Finsbury Park was transformed into a mini-festival. Forty thousand people crammed into London's second largest public park, along with a 50 foot high main stage, hundreds of food outlets, dozens of cameras, three oversized bars and only two public toilets. This was more than what anyone there had expected. Especially as no-one there had paid a penny to be there.

But just like any festival, the crowds were sweaty, the beer was overpriced and, generally, there was more than one band playing. And even though the stellar support line-up (Gogol Bordello, Roots Manuva, Gallows) had been confirmed weeks prior, the crowd all felt like something was missing. Rumours were circling all day about whether or not Cypress Hill were going to make a guest appearance. Whether Simon Cowell was actually there. Or if Maynard James Keenan would provide his haunting vocal style for 'Know Your Enemy'.

But before any of that happened, it was the turn of Gallows, five punks from Watford done good. Despite being a band known for getting down and dirty with the crowd for a gig, the wall of security had no chance in stopping them. Opening with a cover of 'God Save the Queen', lead singer Frank Carter spent the next few songs standing over the crowd, proving himself to be an extremely charismatic frontman. Playing an even mix of both first and second albums, while throwing in a cover of 'I Fought the Law' by The Clash to mark the passing of a number of rock stars this year, Gallows were on form. Playing with the energy of a thousand Duracell bunnies, they rocked from start to finish.

The second band, to go with my second beer of the day, was Roots Manuva, an unorthodox choice for the line-up but a successful one yet. Playing a set 10 minutes shorter than Gallows, Roots Manuva squeezed in almost all their hits, including a rocked-up version of 'Witness' that broke the crowd into euphoria for four minutes. Despite the shortened set, Roots Manuva gave the crowd a much needed chill-out session at dinner time as we were going to need our energy for what was to come.

The final, and best, support act was the incredible Gogol Bordello. Nothing but mad, insane, loveable music from these 'gypsy punks'. The crowd was bouncing from the first to the last song, while the few not moving simply shared looks of confusion. Normally I would say that Eastern European punk would be an acquired taste, but from the state of the crowd, it is now very much in. Keeping the crowd in perpetual motion, the zenith of their set came when the opening bars to 'Start Wearing Purple' began to play. People were screaming, shouting, jumping, dancing and jigging their RATM t-shirts off. It was fair to say that if there were any time to bring Rage onto the stage, it was now.

And so, 40 minutes later, Rage Against the Machine were introduced onto the stage; by Simon Cowell. Not the Simon Cowell unfortunately; an animation depicting him popped up on the screens either side of the stage. Once the references to nipple erections and high waistbands were over, a deafening air-raid siren rang out over Finsbury Park as Rage Against the Machine strutted on stage and opened with 'Testify'. And so began my journey around the crowd. I began in the centre of the front circle but by the end of the first song, I had been barged, shunted and thrown about 10 rows closer. Then I was thrown back and to the right. That was basically how I spent the show, making friends along the way.

The set itself could have been released as a greatest hits: every song an anthem and no anthem left unplayed. Playing nothing from Renegades and only a couple from Evil Empire, RATM kept the crowd happy with 'Guerrilla Radio', 'Bullet In The Head', 'Know Your Enemy' and of course, ending on the song that got them there in the first place, 'Killing In The Name'. Not to mention inviting those responsible for the Facebook campaign on stage and handing over all the profits made from the single to Shelter. I'm not ashamed to say that I nearly shed a tear at the humanitarianism of what the band had done.

And then, it was over. And I had to return to the begrudging world I once dwelled in, trampling paper beer cups and discarded clothing as I went. But as this is now RATM's 3rd UK show since their reformation in 2008; what's to stop them from playing some new material? We can only hope.

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