When pissed-off concertgoers grapple with overmatched security guards only a few hours into an all-day concert event, you know it’s going to be an eventful day. Saturday night’s L.A. Rising concert held at USC’s Memorial Coliseum was one of the biggest, flashiest rock spectacles I’ve ever seen, despite heated tension early in the afternoon.
The Goldenvoice-sponsored mega-concert featuring Rage Against the Machine, Muse, Rise Against, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Immortal Technique and El Gran Silencio went down at one of LA’s biggest complexes, the Coliseum. This is the same Coliseum that was denied this year’s Electric Daisy Carnival for security reasons.
Despite ticket prices creeping past the $100 mark and $25 parking fees at nearby USC lots, L.A. Rising definitely brought in quite a crowd. There were, I’d assume, more than 70,000 mostly t-shirted people spread across the stadium for the last three acts of the show.
Due to the traffic nightmare caused by trying to get over to the USC area in time for the show, I (and, judging by the crowd outside the gates, a lot of other people) missed both El Gran Silencio and Immortal Technique. By the time I got in, Lauryn Hill and her band were taking the stage to play for a hugely apathetic crowd. Unlike her performance at Coachella this year, which was received well by the sun-soaked desert revelers, her L.A. Rising gig was met with lethargy and disinterest. Only her Fugees material like Killing Me Softly and Ready or Not really resonated with anybody in the crowd, as most of the sped-up songs played by her large backing band echoed around the cavernous Coliseum to little attention. Perhaps her reggae-tinged soul music was an odd fit for the rock-heavy lineup.
When Chicago rock/punk band Rise Against hit the stage at around 6:20, things got a bit testy. In order to exercise crowd control, the General Admission floor area was divided into three separate sections. Only the fans that showed up ridiculously early in the morning were given the wristband allowing them access to the portion closest to the stage. Everybody else was divided among the last two sections. The part that really angered ticket holders was that the second section, which housed the soundboard area, had a HUGE open space that wasn’t filled. Meanwhile, those who couldn’t sit outside the Coliseum all morning long were herded to the very back of the floor section, almost a football field’s distance away from the stage. That’s probably not what they thought they’d get for their $115 ticket, and for that reason they were mad.
Within thirty seconds of Rise Against beginning their set, vicious fights broke out between the last floor section and the overmatched security guards. Fans rushed past the barricade, spilling out into the second section of the floor. Security battled back, chasing escapees down and dragging them back to their assigned section. It was rough, and went on for almost all of the band’s set. As for the performance, I’m not the biggest Rise Against fan, but guitarist/vocalist Tim McIlrath did a great job revving up the crowd. Living within KROQ’s radio signal, I’ve heard quite a few Rise Against songs, and all of them were played within the 45-minute set.
Help is on the Way was a highlight, its high-energy riffs and steady rhythm eliciting many a fist pump in the crowd. Always known to speak out about their political views, McIlrath spoke at one point about the “new kind of patriotism” going on in the USA, the Iraq Veterans Against the War, before playing the anti-war tune Hero of War on his acoustic guitar. Rise Against's set was energetic, high-spirited and well-received, despite the sun beating down directly onto the stage.
By the time Muse hit the stage, the Coliseum was mostly packed and ready for the British trio’s quirky brand of arena-prog rock. Curiously, the band began the set with Exogenesis: Symphony, Part One: Overture, a slow orchestral number. The crowd’s anticipation swelled with every thunderous drum hit as the song grew more powerful, leading into mega-hit Uprising. Throughout the course of Muse’s 16-song set, one thing was made more than certain: Matt Bellamy shreds. When not wailing away on his own songs, Bellamy teased the crowd with memorable riffs from songs such as House of the Rising Sun, Heartbreaker, what sounded like Bored by the Deftones, and even the Star-Spangled Banner, an unexpected but impressive treat. He seamlessly transitioned between guitar and piano on Butterflies & Hurricanes, one of the set's strongest moments. Bellamy, clad in shiny magenta pants and a Captain America t-shirt, had the crowd eating from his hand the entire set.
Visually, the band definitely knows how to make jaws drop. Their honeycomb-shaped lighting backdrop was beautiful, combining with their ethereal, atmospheric space-rock impeccably. They made the expansive, sprawling Coliseum seem like a mid-size arena, filling up the air with colors, lasers, lights, giant inflatable eyeballs and a thunderous, perfectly-mixed live sound. Some reviews of L.A. Rising have said that Muse had the day’s best performance, and they may be right. The band puts on one of the best live shows around today. Muse touched on all their best-known songs, including Hysteria, Time is Running Out, Supermassive Black Hole, Map of the Problematique, and Plug-In Baby, although it would have been nice if they played New Born.
Muse set list:
Exogenesis: Symphony, Part 1: Overture
Map of the Problematique
Supermassive Black Hole
Butterflies & Hurricanes
Time is Running Out
Plug In Baby
Knights of Cydonia
Rage Against the Machine didn’t take the stage until roughly 10:35, fifteen minutes after they were scheduled to start. They had quite a theatrical introduction: a huge red star was illuminated by a spotlight on the top deck of the far side of the Coliseum, while the Olympic Torch atop the huge pillars behind the stage area was set ablaze. Strobe lights whipped around the concourse while a montage of the band’s most memorable moments was broadcast on video screens. It was a huge, epic, slightly out-of-character start for a band always known for minimalism. The frantic energy put forth by the theatrics quickly turned to anger, though, when the sound cut out twice during the set-opening Testify. The issue was resolved after the longest thirty-seconds ever experienced at a concert, satiating the rabid, incessantly moshing crowd.
One of the wildest things to happen during the Rage set was the firepit that broke out in the second GA area. Seemingly 3-foot high flames whipped around during Bulls on Parade and Bombtrack while delirious Rage fans circle-pitted around it. Security kept rushing over and extinguishing the flames, only to have a new fire spring up minutes later. This went on for nearly half an hour.
Musically, Rage was inspired. De la Rocha, guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk had great energy, but the PA system left a bit to be desired. The Coliseum is a big, big place, and sometimes the sound was a bit muffled. Judging by the comments on the event’s Facebook page, it would also appear that those in the back of the stadium had trouble hearing anything clearly, which is unfortunate. After a lengthy speech about how LA is being controlled by the rich (more on that in a bit), Rage went into Wake Up, one of the set’s highlights.
There was a tinge of irony when de la Rocha went on that politically-charged rant. There he was, perched atop a stage at a huge, USC-sponsored football stadium ranting about how the rich own everything, to a crowd in the tens of thousands, tired from spending all day roasting in the sun. The expensive ticket prices, $25 parking fees and $5 bottles of water didn’t really help give things much of a “grassroots” feel. It was weird hearing a band known for its anti-corporate opinions talk about these issues in such a context. Granted, a group like Rage Against the Machine has to play venues like this due to their status in the history of rock music and their small number of post-reunion gigs, but in the end it was slightly awkward.
After Wake Up, the band left the stage to raucous cheers, returning for a vicious encore of Freedom and Killing in the Name. By the time Killing in the Name ended and the house lights came on, a long, exhausting day was finished.
In all, L.A. Rising was a success, judging by the turnout, but in the end the special one-off show did have its issues. Spending more than $100 should not relegate you to obstructed views behind giant speaker poles. If anything, the structure of the seating arrangement should have been made clearer ahead of time. These sorts of issues happen with big huge stadium events like this, so it's hardly a special circumstance. All things considered, it was definitely an enjoyable day of music.
If this was in fact Rage Against the Machine’s final send-off, they’d have been hard-pressed to do so in a more dramatic fashion.
People of the Sun
Know Your Enemy
Bulls on Parade
Bullet in the Head
Calm Like a Bomb
Sleep Now in the Fire
Killing in the Name
Behind the Hype's newest member, Ohio took some amazing photos for our collection in the gallery below!