Rage Against the Machine | Live review

Finsbury Park, London

Last Christmas a Facebook campaign powered Californian rap-metal veterans Rage Against the Machine to the top of the singles chart, pipping The X Factor victor Joe McElderry's The Climb.

It was the first time in five years that the reality show's winner had not enjoyed a Christmas No 1. Simon Cowell denounced the campaign as "cynical" – which struck many as akin to Graham Norton describing an event as too camp.

Delighted by the victory, Rage vowed to repay supporters by playing a free concert in the UK, and kept their word yesterday. Close to 40,000 people flocked to north London – and the event could have been far bigger; more than 180,000 had applied for tickets via an online lottery, and several hundred ticketless fans scaled the fence.

Inside the park, the mood was one of militant triumphalism, with no contest over the fashion item du jour: the many T-shirts proclaiming, Rage 1 Cowell 0.

After Roots Manuva's hip-hop and Gogol Bordello's gypsy-punk, Rage were preceded by a cartoon parody of Cowell on the screens flanking the stage. "I am the supernova!" he sneered to boos. "If Rage had entered X Factor, they wouldn't have got past boot camp."

But RATM are more used to grappling with weightier issues: vocalist Zack de la Rocha, trim and fervent at 40, condemned Israel's Gaza blockade as he introduced Township Rebellion. The polemic of Bullet in the Head confirmed that Rage remain a sledgehammer of a band. Yet they got with the day's plot as guitarist Tom Morello pulled the originators of the Facebook campaign, Jon and Tracy Morter, on stage to a rousing ovation and presented proceeds of the single's sales to the charity Shelter – before Rage hurtled through a cover of the Clash's White Riot.

After a short set, the band left the stage and pumped McElderry's pop schlock through the speakers before returning for the inevitable thunderous encore of Killing In The Name. As 40,000 throats joined de la Rocha in bellowing "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!", Mr Cowell could consider himself well and truly told.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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