Rage Against the Machine: Live at Finsbury Park Blu-ray Review: Christmas in June

No matter what one may think of the music spawned from reality TV shows on both sides of the Atlantic, such as American Idol and The X-Factor, it’s hard to dispute the success mogul Simon Cowell has had in the music business with the acts he signed from those shows. But that doesn’t mean some people aren’t frustrated by the state of pop music.

Such was the condition married couple Jon and Tracy Morter found themselves in 2009 as Christmas approached because the previous four years the UK Singles Chart Christmas #1 song had been by the winner of The X Factor. This led them to start a Facebook campaign intended to make Rage Against The Machine’s 1991 breakout song “Killing in the Name” that year’s #1 single. The band were all in favor of the idea, and to serve as an enticement, they announced they would perform a free concert if “Killing…” topped the charts.

Simon Cowell claimed that X-Factor winner Joe McEldererry’s cover of Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” would triumph. It lost by over 50,000 copies. Rage made good on their word, putting on a free show in Finsbury Park on June 6, 2010. This is that concert, a 66-minute, 12-song set that includes a cover of The Clash’s “White Riot.”

After an introduction by Chuck D, the quartet (vocalist Zack de la Rocha, bassist Tim Commerford, guitarist Tom Morello, and drummer Brad Wilk) came out of the gate with “Testify.” For those who haven’t seen it or been in it, the crowd is wild from the get-go. Huge swaths are seen jumping, moshing, swaying intercut with the band playing. Morello makes the sickest sounds, pulling out the connection of his electric guitar and banging it against his hand. The editing is a little too fast for my tastes, as I would prefer to see the musicians play.

“Know Your Enemy” ends with, “All of which are American dreams.” Here, the line has a different context when sung/shouted by a UK crowd. Morello continues with the wizardry during the bridge of “Bulls on Parade bridge, rubbing the strings like he’s scratching a record.

After “Bullet in the Head,” the band brought them Morters to thank them for starting the campaign, and then announced they would be donating all profits from the sale of “Killing in the Name,” over 162,00 pounds, to Shelter, an organization that helps the homeless.

Not caring to be gracious winners, the audience started a “Fuck Simon Cowell” chant. The band went into “White Riot.” De la Rocha’s vocals are atypical here as he sounds laid back rather than angry. Commerford and Wilk and get to shine during an extended jam on the bridge of “Sleep Now In The Fire.” Before the encore, a series of quotes about unlikelihood of Rage taking the top spot were shown, and then, because history was made, it was Christmas in June as they closed the show with their latest #1 hit.

The video has been given a 1080i/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Colors are vibrant with red and blue lights bathing the stage at different times. Sharpness varies because of the moving/zooming cameras have trouble keeping the active band members in focus and the smoke. Many shots of the audience have good depth and detail, but there’s a bit of a flicker from some overhead shots of the audience. The audio comes in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0. De la Rocha’s vocals are clear, and the mix allows the three instruments to be heard distinctly. The track has a good dynamic range with strong bass support thumping out the subwoofer

There are two HD bonus features. “Behind the Scenes” (5 min) – Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth discusses his plan of attack in recording the concert, using red cameras to improve image quality. There’s also information about Shelter. “Interview with Jon and Tracy Morter” (7 min) – The deserving heroes get to speak. The most interesting information was that Cowell called Jon before the contest was over. They had a nice chat and he was gracious before a winner was determined.

This Finsbury Park concert was one of the last the band, who have not performed together since the 2011 L.A. Rising festival, has played. While it’s an unfortunate reminder that they aren’t currently working together, it’s great proof of their talents and power during the latter portion of their tenure together. It’s also great proof that people have the power, as Patti Smith sings, when they join together for a common cause.

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Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site.

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