As I arrive at Manchester Academy, the queue of people already eager to catch the superstars of Rock / Rap already snake right down Oxford Road as far as the eye can see, it’s safe to say when Tom Morello, Chuck D, B Real and co are in town it’s kind of a big deal.
Having not seen Morello, Commerford and Wilk rock live in over 26 years when Rage Against The Machine were ploughing their trade in the early days, I was looking forward to seeing if they still had the same fire and intensity that fuelled them back then.
At their core, Prophets Of Rage functions not only on a love of music, but a deep belief in its power as a tool and a weapon, with the band forming in 2016 as a kneejerk response to the political situation in the United States at the time. The band continues to partner with activists and social justice organizations in cities along the way, contributing a portion of the proceeds to the fight against hunger and homelessness.
It’s not long before DJ Lord appears onstage, he certainly brings a party element to the proceedings as he manages to mix tracks such as, Raining Blood, Smells Like Teen Spirit and Seven Nation Army, which the crowd are more than happy to sing along with reciting every lyric as if it was just another drunken night at a rock club.
Finally the stage lights dim, Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk, Chuck D and B-Real emerge from the shadows to join DJ Lord, they all stand facing the crowd, arms aloft before building up and launching into Prophets Of Rage (Public Enemy), they explode into action with Commerford pogoing with a huge grim on his face.
Chuck D blasts into the lyrics “I roll with the punches so I survive, try to rock ’cause it keeps the crowd alive” whilst Morello is pulling an all manor of moves that shouldn’t be possible from a human, if the opening song is anything to go from these superstars we’re in for one hell of a show.
Testify (RATM) and Unfuck The World are up next followed by Guerrilla Radio (RATM) which sets the audience alight, as soon as the opening lick to Know Your Enemy (RATM) comes in the place is awash of crowd surfers. The Prophets are an intensely fiery unit capable of playing with equal parts precision, passion and muscle, with Morello contorting like an alien crab, pulling out every move in his arsenal to the delight both the crowd, and us photographers while unleashing his jaw-melting riffs. It was difficult to know where to look at times there was so much going on, I’ve never sweated so much photographing three songs before that’s for sure.
Commerford and Wilk are a solid force to reckon with, their musical chemistry is apparent having being playing together since 1991 and that’s very much intact still in 2019.
Both Chuck D and B Real, who is adorning a headdress, gloves and black Adidas tracksuit, works the crowd masterfully with racing textures and manically playful party energy. They run through a medley of songs from their respected bands including Bring The Noise, Insane In The Brain, Can’t Truss It and Hand On The Pump. B Real announces “Hip-hop is alive in Manchester”.
The most poignant and symbolic moment of the night comes when Morello takes to the mike to thank the crowd, paying homage to sadly departed former band mate and friend Chris Cornell, who sadly died in 2017.
Before playing Cochise, Morello asks the crowd to sing along if they know the words as they play in the shadows instrumentally with only the mic stand lit up by a spotlight, I found this to be such a touching and quite powerful moment and it certainly gives food for thought of how depression can effect someones life.
During Bullet In The Head, Morello flips his guitar to reveal his thoughts on the new Prime Minister of the UK, the Fuck Boris slogan is welcomed with raptures of applause, Bulls On Parade is up next followed by crowd favorite Killing In The Name, with this the entire place erupts into a frenzy of bodies, beer and clothing being flung around whilst everyone recites the infamous lyrics back at them.
The band raises their fists in unison a final time and offer thanks to the Manchester crowd before finishing such a phenomenally energetic and passionate show with Bombtrack.
To say Prophets Of Rage were amazing and mesmerising would be an understatement, they exceeded all expectations and were on a different level to anything I’ve ever seen or photographed before. Their set list was insane playing through some of their huge back catalogue of their respected bands, if you thought Rage Against The Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill songs couldn’t sound any better, then you’d be mistaken.
Words & Photography by Mark Bromham at Manchester Academy for Prophets Of Rage on 13th August 2019. To view more of Mark’s work please visit his photography site here: www.howayman.photography/livemusic