Raging Against, well, Who Really Knows...

Yesterday saw Zack de la Rocha's mob of anti-establishment rap metallers Rage Against The Machine stay true to their word, hosting a free(ish) show in North London's Finsbury Park. Bathed in a sea of irony. Not wanting to appear entirely out of place and desperately hoping to come away with at worst a minor hobble, black was to be the order of the day. A Justice For All Metallica T-shirt rescued from the rubble of a post-apocalyptic northern chain of Borders in exchange for shrapnel and pseudo-military boots ought do the trick. Although scrambling through the Gestapo gates of Finsbury Park's highly temporary site (up and down in 24 hours give or take a minute or two) brought bittersweet, fond memories of last year's Sonisphere, once inside everything turns a little Reading & Leeds, and motives of why I've professed never to set foot in there again at least 4 times and consequentially returned. From muddy cup collecting for 10p a pop, ironic T-shirts branded with the likes of 'You Look Like I Need A Beer', 'Kiss Me, I'm Drunk' etc ad infinitum and enough exclamations of 'dude' to make Ashton Kutcher wish he'd never flipped a baseball cap 180ยบ and hadn't had his inanities boomed out from speakers beside the silver screen provide the primary hobbies in this kingdom of confused democracy.

The whole shebang's effectively a puerile two-finger salute to Simon Cowell, with two commemorative T-shirts both brandishing the slogan 'Rage-1 Cowell-0' although whilst Rage allegedly signed off every last cent to Shelter, perhaps a bankroll of Cowell's earnings against their own would prove to be a more adequate reflection of who really does have chart supremacy. Joe McElderry did go and get number one the following week regardless. And who, in the blistering heat of June, amidst the sticky concrete humidity of London, gives a shit about a Christmas number one in the first place? Especially a load of sociopolitically ravaged 40-somethings from Los Angeles... Then there's the fact that having promised to play a free show, only those with enough patience/ bandwidth/ time on their hands to sit moronically F5ing the hell out of their keyboards were fortunate to frequent a show as historical as today makes it out to be. Very little history, if any has been made and as Joe quite rightly stated, your gran probably doesn't want to hear the lyrical vacuousness and musical vociferousness of Killing In The Name whilst attempting to digest the gristly cartilage of a recently slaughtered turkey, or inadequate substitute. Sidetracks aside, the Rage Factor Victory Party wasn't so much the democratic free-for-all it most probably should have been, rather a smug-as-Lloyd Webber knees up for those over the fence in the presence of Morello & co. And then there's a guest area...

With Seetickets predictably going down in mayday flames as soon as more than precisely 47 unique code holders attempted to get their greasy mitts on a golden ticket, Twitter was run amok with a ceaseless stream of codes, postcodes, desperate please and marriage proposals. That's how we wound up in London's first estival extravaganza, without having a clue any clearer than an insecure Clearasil aficionado's visage as to which kind soul it was that actually bothered to punch in a few more details than they really had to, or ought to. So if you helped anyone out in such a way, that's a pretty swell thing to do. Thank you. A further irony however, stems from the fact that had the race for Christmas number one pricked any substantial interest in my deepest emotions, I probably would have swayed towards McElderry. I felt sorry for him. He got handed a track as dire as the faux-gypsy graveled profanities of Eugene Hutz' Gogol Bordello, and a torrent of abuse for being sexually confused, and most probably frustrated. With Cheryl Cole as mentor, it's a wonder his brain didn't explode somewhere along the line... But a history in the making, sit the grandchildren down beside the de la Rocha statue in Finsbury Park, yadda yadda yadda moment this ain't.

Gallows bluster on around 5ish, with their now-ubiquitously bratty bravado in tow and unfortunately, a splattering of songs from sophomore shitfest Grey Britain. If you think the Blight's drab, depressing and disadvantaged, try Italy. Or Spain. Superfluously covering I Fought The Law, of course brought to critical acclaim by Joe Strummer's The Clash in an homage to the British punk ethic and Finsbury Park's involvement with similarly tuned gigs in the past (Sex Pistols, Limp Bizkit maybe...), it's the surrealist lyrics spat over ramshackle punk metal from debut LP Orchestra Of Wolves that permeates the piss-poor soundsystem that rips their set to shreds. Abandon Ship still sounds viscerally vital, whilst the title track, armed to the teeth with its choral brutality of "If I offer to buy you a drink, trust me when I say it's not alcoholic" and following fellatio incapacities is absolutely skull-shattering. More lethargic than a Sunday loll amidst the flowers, daydreaming to Caribou and Arthur Russell is Roots Manuva, his trademark baritone majesty lost on the breezes of dreadlock disinterest. Manuva drafts in extra MCs to maintain niceties between the likes of Again & Again, Buff Nuff and Witness The Fitness, the latter falling devastatingly short of its expected futuristic genre hip hopping.

By the time Rage Against The Machine strut onstage with their triumphantly cocksure chart-conquering swagger, impatience is about ready to ignite, like the fireworks from which the grand finale of Killing In The Name would most probably have benefited. Bulls On Parade, Bombtrack and Bullet In The Head all sound bigger than Northern Ireland, an energetically charged White Riot (ANOTHER Clash cover) features and opener Testify clings onto your lactic acid-filled legs with jump leads, kickstarting crazed shoe shuffling. Yet with all the hushed promises of SuBo guest spots and whisperings of Simon Cowell abseiling down from the extravagant number of helicopters that circle overhead, the only differentiation between today and next week's Download and Dublin shows, besides a far more concise set, is the appearance of Jon and Tracy Morter, the "great political strategists" and "humanitarians" (Morello's musings, not mine) that basically established a Facebook group that went haywire. Today marks an impressive feat, of that there's no doubt. Although a feat bereft of both heroes and history, displaying the fickle, fragile state in which contemporary music culture finds itself rather than this revolutionary sticking it to the system it's being heralded as...

Rage Against The Machine played:

People Of The Sun
Know Your Enemy
Bulls On Parade
Township Rebellion
Bullet In The Head
White Riot
Guerrilla Radio
Sleep Now In The Fire

Killing In The Name

DOWNLOAD: Rage Against The Machine, Bombtrack (Live, The Rage Factor, 6th June '10).