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Rage Against the Machine Burn Down the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Against a simple black back drop emblazoned with a red star, Rage Against the Machine took the stage for their headlining performance at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum during L.A. Rising on Saturday night (July 30), an understated setup after preceding band Muse‘s lights and magic.

Celebrating their 20th anniversary as a band, lit by the historic arena’s Olympic Torch (the Coliseum has hosted two Olympics), Los Angeles’ native sons did not need fireworks or an elaborate display; the crowd was already theirs, as they launched into an explosive, galvanizing set to close out the show, which also included standout performances by Chicago punk band Rise Against, and a typically underwhelming appearance by Ms. Lauryn Hill.

Although sound problems plagued Rage’s opening song, the 50,000 people in attendance hardly seemed to notice, as bearded front man Zack de la Rocha worked them into a frenzy, sparking a succession of circle pits across the arena floor. Not even a song into their hour-and-fifteen minute set, a wall of fans jumped barriers onto the right side field, sparking a brief melee with security, as police looked on, and de la Rocha shouted “It’s right outside your door!”

Though the band looked slightly older, their statement remained as strong as ever; Tom Morello‘s guitar pyrotechnics perfectly complimenting Zack’s boundless ebullience, leaping and roaring through flawless renditions of Rage classics ‘Know Your Enemy,’ Bombtrack’ and ‘People of the Sun,’ and even busting out some ambient, whale-sounds/feedback leading into ‘Bulls on Parade.’

“This is the L.A. story y’all! Let me see some fists in the sky!” Zack shouted, sleeves rolled up, going to work on ‘Down Rodeo,’ and although it was their only live appearance for the year, it was hard to imagine how the band could have been tighter, more cohesive energetically, or more enjoyable to watch.

“I hope to see you in the streets,” Zack bellowed during their last song, ‘Wake Up,’ before returning to rip through encores ‘Freedom’ and ‘Killing in the Name,’ as Mexican flags flew proudly in the pit, and the crowd of thirsty Los Angelinos fought, cheered, sweated, bled and sang along.

Twenty years later, it felt like nothing’s changed.

Watch Rage Against the Machine tour the grounds of Memorial Coliseum


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