Prophets of Rage – Live in Rio de Janeiro Review

It’s getting on for a year since Prophets of Rage were first revealed to the world after months of rehearsals behind closed doors, but now this super protest group that came out swinging against Donald Trump’s election campaign has become a global entity as they take their powerful set to the four corners. Last week it was Brazil, and on Friday night (May 12th) Tom Morello, Tim Comerford and Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine hit the stage at Vivo Rio with vocalists B-Real (Cypress Hill) and Chuck D (Public Enemy), with DJ Lord, also of Public Enemy, spinning the wheels of steel.

Despite playing a set liberally spiced with RATM classics, this is no nostalgia gig, the dynamic of not one, but two hip hop greats on vocals giving the project an exciting edge. Throw in a handful of PE numbers, a few snatches of CH, some surprising covers and even some original material (there’s an album in the can due for a September release) and we have an exciting night on our hands.

An enthusiastic set from Rise Against was soon followed by an extended introduction from DJ Lord, featuring a mash up of classics from the worlds of rock, metal and hip-hop, with some badass mixing of ‘Enter Sandman’ and ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ to set the mood.

The siren rings out to signal the opening track, signature tune ‘Prophets of Rage’, and it’s obvious from the word go that this is one well drilled outfit. Chuck D, dressed all in black, and B-Real, doing his best Arab sheik impression, take centre stage and split the vocal duties, while the Rage boys add a whole new level of power to the Public Enemy classic.

The crowd needs little encouragement and is already bouncing around enthusiastically from the word go. Three RATM tracks follow in quick succession, with ‘Testify’, ‘Take The Power Back’ and ‘Guerrilla Radio’, increasing the intensity, before Cypress Hill’s ‘How I Could Just Kill a Man’. B-Real makes for a commanding presence stage front, handling a little more of the lead work (maybe his voice is better suited to the Rage material?), with Chuck seemingly happy to bounce off the rocking Cypress Hill frontman, swinging his microphone baseball style and taking the lion’s share on his own material.

We get two more Rage tracks to push the temperature even higher with the intense ‘Bombtrack’ and ‘People of the Sun’, before something of a hip-hop interlude. First up is the Enemy classic ‘Fight the Power’, the passing years have given Chuck’s voice more gravity but have done nothing to diminish his flow and the rock arrangement adds an interesting angle, the song proving a perfect fit for Tom Morello‘s idiosyncratic style.

Chuck and B-Real then make their way down to the barriers for an extended rap medley of ‘Hand on the Pump / Can’t Truss It / Insane in the Brain / Bring the Noise / I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That / Welcome to the Terrordome and Jump Around’. To be honest, the sound is pretty rough at this point, but the two MCs are giving it their all and are rocking the crowd up close. ‘Jump Around’ is an undeniable crowd pleaser and after working its magic, one of the greatest riffs in history kicks in and ‘Sleep Now in the Fire’ opens the second half of the show, which can only be described as insane.

Pits open up all over the venue as ‘Bullet in the Head’ elicits an almost primal reaction from the energetic crowd. ‘The Party’s Over’ and ‘Know Your Enemy’ maintain the intensity as what started out as well-drilled slips into top gear and becomes high-octane.

There is something so right about the chemistry in this band that even the new songs sound like instant classics; upcoming single ‘Unfuck The World’ being greeted with the same enthusiasm as the rest of the set. The White Stipes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’ is then a surprising addition, before ‘Bulls on Parade’ once more whips the crowd into a frenzy.

Tim McIlrath from Rise Against takes to the stage for the now traditional ‘Kick Out the Jams’ cover and then there’s only one song left. The inevitable closing track
Killing in the Name’
is quite simply one of the greatest protest songs ever and cannot fail. Tonight is no different. The crowd going absolutely mental with circular mosh pits filled with bodies crashing off each other and the floor is absolute ecstatic chaos.

There are no false pretenses here though, we aren’t getting an encore – ‘Killing in The Name’ is the end, and that’s it; what more could you possibly want?

All told, it’s a pretty damn superb performance; the playing is highly professional with impeccable rhythms and Morello never dropping a note; the two MCs work the stage with such a cool dynamic it is as if they’ve been performing together for years and DJ Lord slips in and out seamlessly, even managing a battle with Morello. There is undeniable chemistry and the exchange of energy between band and audience is quite contagious, provoking the kind of scenes not seen since smart phones became the norm. Then there’s the songs – every single thing stands up – whether it’s the Rage classics, the PE classics, the Cypress Hill classics or the new material – it all works and they nail it every time.

Watch out Europe.