A couple of years ago, I was beginning to wonder if Rage Against the Machine were ever going to release a Greatest Hits album. After all, they were a very popular and influential and innovative group, and I’m sure Zach de la Rocha misses the income (no matter how much he is against money/greed/wealth).
Well, only a short while before these political rap-rockers disbanded (because Zach left), Rage were busy touring in support of their latest album, 2000’s covers disc, “Renegades.” While touring, they made a stop over in their hometown (Los Angeles) and played a show which was actually recorded and was to be released as a live album which wouldn’t see the light of day for three years.
Unless the record label decides to cash in and releases a Greatest Hits album for Rage’s anniversary, “Live At The Grand Olympic Auditorium” is as close to being a greatest hits album that you’re going to get. But, at the same time, this live C.D. is much better than a Greatest Hits release. Why? Well, RATM’s live shows were quite powerful, energizing, and inspirational. Thus, some of the songs on here are so intense, they actually make the studio versions sound calm and restrained (for proof, see “Bulls on Parade” and “Testify”)!
The rhythm section (composed of Tom Morello, Tim Cummerford, and Brad Wilk), coupled with Zach’s angry vocals and inspired lyrics, makes every one of these songs detonate like a grenade. Tom, not surprisingly, pulls off a flawless performance. As “Testify,” and the aforementioned “Bulls On Parade” show, he makes noises on the guitar that I couldn’t even make with my mouth! His guitar swoops, beeps, punches, crunches, chugs, creaks, wails, and about everything in between. Also, Tim’s bass (which hums, grumbles, and makes a wah-wah sound) is a lot more audible, here, than originally. Finally, drummer Brad Wilk fills in the remaining gaps and anchors the songs, making them as solid and impenetrable as a brick wall.
Even though the whole set is great, my personal favorite songs are “Bulls on Parade,” “Bullet In The Head” (where Zach switches off vocal parts with the crowd), “Sleep Now In The Fire” (which also features some great bass riffs), the exciting, adrenaline-pumped and very catchy renditions of “Guerilla Radio” and “Kick Out The Jams,” and the perfect album/concert closer, “Freedom” (which has a few impromptu, added lyrics).
Ultimately, it’s just a hair away from being perfect. Zach can’t complete the whole rendition of “Killing In The Name” without pausing to take a breath, and he forgets part of the ending to “Know Your Enemy.” And, I, overall, prefer Rage’s “Live and Rare” album to this. But, even still, “Live At The Grand Olympic Auditorium” is more than a welcome inclusion in your collection and a great snack if you’re tired of listening to the same four Rage C.D.’s again and again.