Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy!
Prophets of Rage – O2 Academy Shepherds Bush
They say you should never meet your heroes but, to be honest, I’ve not found that to be good advice when it comes to seeing the bands of your youth. About 10 years ago I saw Dinosaur Jr and despite some fears about an old man ruining his near perfect (in my eyes) legacy, J Mascis tore the roof off the O2 in Oxford. So I had good vibes about seeing the Prophets of Rage in Shepherds Bush live. The core of the band, Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk and guitar alchemist Tom Morello formed the basis of one of my favourite bands of all time, Rage Against the Machine. Though the Prophets lack the explosive poetry of RATM lead singer Zack De La Rocha, they pack instead B Real of California hip hop superstars Cypress Hill and the mighty Chuck D and DJ Lord of Public Enemy.
I’d got the album a while back and enjoyed the groove, the addition of the two rappers had brought a playful edge to the searing and often incendiary RATM style without seeming to lose any of the power. Lyrically the tone is older, perhaps more relaxed, definitely more worldly in tone. But let’s not forget why the band was formed. After RATM finished (violently) Timmy C, Brad Wilk and Morello had continued to work together with Chris Cornell on the Audioslave project but formed Prophets in 2016 as a reaction to the toxic political climate across the US and in an increasingly post truth world. So they’re older, they’re smarter but they’re still raging.
But what are they like live? The answer to that is, when they’re playing, awe inspiring. It’s like being caught up in a cyclone, whipped into a frenzy of rage, excitement and huge riffs. Tom Morello is an obvious guitar hero through and through who, put simply, does things with a guitar that no other person on earth does. I saw him make sounds with his hand and a guitar lead that were more exciting and musical than a million notes played by so called shredders. The rappers too took songs from both the Prophets album and the Rage Against the Machine back catalogue and made them their own without losing any of the power or raw emotion. But all of that said, the power comes from Timmy C and his ground shaking bass and Brad Wilk’s funky yet immensely heavy drumming. Wilk drums like a mixture of John Bonham and Stanton Moor and as well as being super groovy, it’s impressive on a sheer physical level. And that’s what struck me, how intensely physical an experience the whole gig was, the riffs and rapping, backed up by what I consider to be the best, tightest rhythm section in the world today created an experience that was utterly visceral. The crowd felt it too, roaring along with every word of every song.
The song selection was utterly on point. ‘Unf**k The World’, lead single from the Prophets album came out and blew the roof off but, for me, the climax was an utterly staggering version of RATM call to arms ‘Know Your Enemy’. On hearing ‘Know Your Enemy’ and other classics such as ‘Bullet In The Head’ and ‘Take the Power Back’ it became clear that the singers and rappers may come and go but the core of the band. Morello, Commerford and Wilk, is the constant. So them playing songs from the RATM back catalogue wasn’t nostalgia, it was just them varying their set based on their songs.
That being said, not everything was perfect. The show started with the DJ, DJ lord putting on a turntabalism show before the band arrived. Technically it was very accomplished and there were some great tunes in there but just isn’t my thing and I felt it went on for too long. I was all set for the Prophets to come on but about 15 minutes in I was losing my mojo a bit. It’s a shame as 5 or even 10 minutes would have been just the ticket. The only other, minor gripe I have is Tom Morello playing his double necked guitar, I’m sure it was required for the song (didn’t look, was dancing) but they look proper stupid. Jimmy Page looks stupid with them and Tom Morello (objectively one of the coolest people on the planet) looks stupid with them too.
But these are small things. I had my face melted off with riffs the size of the golden gate bridge and heard some massive militant poetry spat out at warp speed. I danced the whole time and gave myself over to the maelstrom of emotion.