Live ReviewsMusic

Rage Against the Machine Takes the Power Back in Raleigh

Zach de la Rocha (sitting) and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine perform at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Sunday
Zach de la Rocha (left) and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine perform at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Sunday. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)
First things first: It didn’t matter one iota that Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha remained seated for the duration of the band’s set at Raleigh’s PNC Arena on Sunday night (He injured his leg on the second night of the current tour). If anything, remaining in one place made the 52-year-old singer more animated than he’d usually be. 
Rage Against the Machine frontman Zach de la Rocha in side profile silhouette
Rage Against the Machine frontman Zach de la Rocha. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)
Hand gestures, his right foot kicking in the air, fists pumping — de la Rocha brought all the thunder to the stage and left fans who have been waiting for years to see the band live satisfied. Currently on their first tour in more than a decade, this was the fourth time I’ve seen the band play (previously in 1993, 1996 and 1999), and was without a doubt the best performance I’ve witnessed thanks to a longer setlist, energetic crowd, and band that was hitting on all cylinders for every song. 
Rage is relentless. There are no slow songs to give the crowd, or band, a breather. It’s like being in a boxing match and having a cathartic release at the same time. From de la Rochas raps and howls to guitarist Tom Morello’s DJ-like riffs, from bassist Tim Commerford’s thunderous low-end to drummer Brad Wilk’s steady time keeping, the only thing the sold-out crowd in Raleigh was left wanting was, perhaps, new music. The band hasn’t released an album of original material since 1999’s Battle of Los Angeles, having broken up and reunited a few times in the period since. 
Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello plays a guitar with his mouth
Tom Morello eats guitar solos for breakfast. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)
Perhaps the funniest part of Rage Against the Machine’s most recent return to the spotlight are the posts from perplexed conservatives who claim to have been longtime fans but apparently never really listened to what the band was saying in their songs.
Anyone who thinks Rage Against the Machine isn’t political cannot be familiar with their history. And Sunday night’s show was a reminder of how timeless, sadly, their words are when it comes to the treatment of minorities. Words on a massive screen behind the band flashed information about pregnancy statistics and Keith Dutree Collins, shot and killed by Raleigh police in 2020. The screen also showed videos of immigrants and a message to “Abort the Supreme Court.” 
Zach de la Rocha performs seated in the foreground, while Brad Wilks drums in the background and, behind him, a large screen reads "Fear is your only God"
Zach de la Rocha performs seated better than most perform on their feet. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)
For all of the aggression, there were hugs and smiles between the band members at the end of the show — perhaps a sign that new material might be possible. Maybe? Please? 
The night opened with a stellar set from Run the Jewels. I’m not sure there’s a happier rapper out there than Killer Mike. The duo (Mike and El-P) were the perfect accompaniment, opening with the Zack de la Rocha featured track “Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck).” Unfortunately, Raleigh didn’t get de la Rocha performing the tune with the duo (and Rage), as he’s done at previous tour stops.
El-P (left) and Killer Mike perform at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Sunday
El-P (left) and Killer Mike perform at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Sunday. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)
Be sure to check out Queen City Nerve’s Soundwave, Charlotte’s most comprehensive live music listing, so you don’t miss out on any shows or concerts coming up. And hell, if you’re looking for something else to do, you can check out our events page as well, which runs the gamut of things to do in Charlotte. You don’t ever have to be bored again. You can check out more of Jeff’s pics and live reviews here.

Rage Against the Machine setlist
People of the Sun
Bulls on Parade
Bullet in the Head
Tire Me
Wake Up
Guerrilla Radio
Down Rodeo
Know Your Enemy
Calm Like a Bomb
Sleep Now in the Fire
No Shelter
War Within a Breath
The Ghost of Tom Joad
Township Rebellion
Killing in the Name

Run the Jewels setlist
Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)
yankee and the brave (ep. 4)
ooh la la
Blockbuster Night Part 1
Oh My Darling Don’t Cry
Legend Has It
Stay Gold
Don’t Get Captured
walking in the snow
a few words for the firing squad (radiation)

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