By MIKE CHAIKEN
The music is loud. The guitarwork is scorching. The rhythm section rumbling and persistent. The vocals are insistent.
Prophets of Rage—which is built upon the bones of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill—has all the earmarks of heavy metal.
In fact, looking around at the crowd at the Aug. 28 show at the Mohegan Sun, there were audience members wearing their favorite heavy metal t-shirts such as Van Halen. They were clearly on hand for the typical trademarks of heavy music.
But where some heavy music is about taking you on a journey and helping your forget the troubles of your life, there was something about the music performed by Prophets of Rage that was uneasy. The music wasn’t a journey. It felt like “now”—a time in history where events are uneasy and unsettling.
And that’s exactly what the members of Prophet of Rage—which features three members of Rage Against the Machine (bassist and backing vocalist Tim Commerford, guitarist Tom Morello, and drummer Brad Wilk), members of Public Enemy (rapper Chuck D and DJ Lord), and rapper B-Real of Cypress Hill—intended.
The amalgamation was formed because Morrello in particular felt the time was right to take back the power from the two-party system of America, where there is a sense that the politicians are in the pockets of special interests. And the members of Prophets of Rage felt the music of Rage Against the Machine and Public Enemy provided the perfect soundtrack and protest to these dangerous times.
And after the Mohegan Sun show, one would be hard-pressed to dispute the band’s assessment.
There was great passion in their performance in Uncasville. And even if you didn’t understand all the words, or if you didn’t know the songs besides the more obvious ones such as Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and “Bring the Noise,” or the Prophets’ reinterpretation of the Beastie Boys “No Sleep Till Cleveland” (which was released in time for the Republican National Convention), you still felt the desire to do “something,” to make history, rather than let history happen to you.
What was interesting is that although Prophets of Rage were born of the need to bring a message to the people, the group allowed the music to do the talking instead of electioneering to the crowd. Except for a few brief words between songs, the group avoided speechifying. The longest monologue of the evening was when Morrello took the time to thank the people behind the scenes of the show – the road crew and the like— and to announce that a portion of the proceeds of the tickets sales were being donated to Connecticut Food Bank and Foodshare to help those in need.
Musically, considering that their time together has been brief, the band was tight and energetic. Morrello was on top of his game on the guitar with his blistering leads. Commerford and Wilk were tight and powerful in the rhythm section. Chuck D and B-Real excelled on vocals. DJ Lord offered up a rocking DJ set as a prelude to the rest of Prophets of Rage stepped on stage.
If the intent of Morrello and crew was to create the soundtrack of a revolution—Prophets of Rage succeeded at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Prior to Prophets of Rage, AWOLNATION took the stage. Whereas, the group previously had been more of an electropop affair, at the Mohegan Sun, they were fascinatingly weird and trippy. Too bad, the first couple of songs were undermined by an inoperable microphone.
Wakrat, the side project of Prophets’ bassist Commerford, also provided a hot set of polyrhythmic, political punk music. It’s edgy, disturbing hardcore sound fit in nicely– musically and politically– with the headliners.
I give Prophets of Rage at the Mohegan Sun on Aug. 28 3 ½ stars out of 4.