“There’s something in the air” declared Tim McIllrath, lead singer of Rise Against, refering to the mass movements that have taken place around the world over the course of the year. Thursday 3rd November saw them headline a politically charged, energetic gig in Leeds.
Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party
Although ably opened by the frenetic hardcore punk band Polar Bear Club, the atmosphere in the gig changed completely when Tom Morello came on stage, introducing himself as The Nightwatchman and the Freedom Fighters Ochestra and opened their set with the aptly named ‘It Begins Tonight’. Fists raised in the air, a new vibrancy takes hold of the room as everyone revels in Morello’s guitar skills that he became famed for whilst playing as part of Rage Against the Machine in the 90’s.
Though he started playing as the Nightwatchman as a folk outlet for his political views whilst a member of the apolitical Audioslave, Morello’s act saw him playing quite a lot of electric acts.
“History is not made by Presidents or Popes… or billionaires or bankers” opens Morello’s Black Spartacus Heart Attack Machine, as he expresses later “The lesson of the Arab Spring and the American Autumn is that you can change the world if you walk out your door”.
At the end of his, Morello pauses to tell a story about some workers at a guitar factory in South Korean, that were sacked for daring to organise and demand better conditions. He was going to play a benefit gig for them, but the day before the Haiti earthquake struck and they donated all the proceeds of the gig to the emergency appeal for that. In their honour, Morello wrote his internationalist ‘World Wide Rebel Songs’ (also the name of the album it appears on).
‘Tom Morello is a difficult act to follow’, admitted Rise Against’s lead guitarist Zach Blair, before speaking about how bands that spoke their mind in their music like Rage Against the Machine had inspired them to write their songs, such as the moving anti-war song “Hero of War” which they then played and dedicated to Morello. Through this and ‘Swing Life Away’, their act contained two accoustic song, which formed a sort of half way lull, most of the act was crashing punk rock, which built up to an frenzied finale.
But ‘Hero of War’ was not the only song they were to dedicate during the night, coming back for an encore they announced their support for the occupy movement taking place around the world. Warning the crowd “Change doesn’t come from above, it comes from comes from below, from the underground… go out there and find out about and discuss these ideas”, they launched into an energetic performance of “Give It All” which speaks directly to the way in which these movements have sprung up from suddenly. “For far too long these voices, muffled by distances, its time to come to our senses, up from the dirt”.
Themselves showing solidarity to the ongoing movement, they had invited activists from Occupy LSX to accompany them and have stalls at all the tour venues round the country. The stall was literally indundated with people at the end of the gig who almost emptied it of flyers. Their presence offered myself and another Socialist Party member I was at the gig with to discuss the movement, and our experiences of participating in last years university occupations, to try to chart a way in which to turn the sentiments expressed at the gig into action in forging a world that meets the needs of the overwhelming majority.