Inside Prophets of Rage and Audioslave's raucous anti-inaugural ball
Just hours after Donald Trump kicked off his inaugural ball in Washington, D.C. on Friday, the Prophets of Rage threw a nighttime gala of their own with a star-studded concert in Los Angeles. The show, hosted at the Teragram Ballroom, featured sets from Tom Morello’s protest-rock group, along with appearances by Jackson Browne, Vic Mensa — and a reunion from Morello and Chris Cornell’s group Audioslave, their first gig in 11 years.
“There’s a lot of moaning and groaning post-election. I don’t feel that at all,” Morello told a small group of reporters beforehand. “Tonight is a celebration of resistance. … The reason why women got the right to vote, the reason why slavery was ended, why Jim Crow ended, why the Vietnam War was brought to a halt was because people stood up for their rights during times of crisis. Now, with Trump and his KKK-cabinet in office, is a time of crisis. We’re beginning to stand up tonight. Don’t agonize: organize.”
Missed the event? Here are the biggest highlights.
Morello: “Bad presidents make for good music”
Prior to the concert, Morello sat with reporters to discuss his concerns about the upcoming administration. But he wasn’t all doom and gloom. “Bad presidents make for good music,” Morello said. “In some ways, people are rightly trying to create an ungovernable situation because it’s so outrageous what this man has promised to do to our country. In person, he’s bragged about grabbing someone’s p—y. If he tries to grab the country’s p—y, we’re gonna break his f—ing arm.”
Reunited Audioslave sounded as fresh as ever
It’s been years since Chris Cornell performed with Audioslave, but judging by last night’s performance, it sounded as if they’d never gone away. The hard rockers appeared near the end of the night and kicked things off with their first single, “Cochise.” They slowed things down with the relatively mellow “Like a Stone,” and concluded with “Show Me How to Live.” The band had an acrimonious split in 2007, yet there didn’t seem to be any bad blood between the newly reunited crew: in fact, following a stage dive from Cornell, Morello, Cornell, drummer Brad Wilk, bassist Tim Commerford shared giant hugs on stage.
The Prophets raged against the machine
Zack de la Rocha didn’t appear at this event—the Rage Against the Machine frontman instead appeared at a protest concert with Run the Jewels in Washington D.C. on Jan. 19—but Chuck D and B-Real served as adequate replacements for the RATM material during the Prophets of Rage set. In fact, de la Rocha’s spirit loomed large: Chuck commended his “revolutionary lyrics” after burning through “Take the Power Back” from Rage’s debut record.
Old and new schools of hip-hop joined forces
The night wasn’t all about rock and roll; there was plenty of hip-hop, too. Following the Prophets’ first set, Vic Mensa took the stage and ignited the room with his track “16 Shots,” his tribute to slain Chicagoan Laquan McDonald. Later, B-Real and Chuck D traded Cypress Hill and Public Enemy joints, including “Insane in the Brain” and “Welcome to the Terrordome.” Surprise guest Everlast popped out to incite fans to “Jump Around.”
Jackson Browne brought a powerful open
Jackson Browne has been a vocal protest artist for decades — recently, he’s thrown his weight behind anti-Dakota Access Pipeline benefits — so it makes sense that the singer-songwriter appeared here. He kicked off the concert with meditative protest tracks “Till I Go Down” and “Which Side.” A cover of Little Steven Van Zandt’s “I Am A Patriot,” with improvised lyrics, was aimed squarely at the new President. And Browne closed his set out with style: a rocking cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” during which Morello revealed the message “Not my president” on the backside of his guitar.
There were inspiring calls to action
The Los Angeles Freedom Choir bookended the night. Comprised of teachers, undocumented workers, veterans, Black Lives Matter activists, and more, Morello explained that their appearance as “a way to demonstrate united fronts.” They walked out with Chuck D and B-Real, who recited lines from Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” The choir was hustled out for the grand finale to help with Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name,” which proved to be the most inspiring moment of the night: just about everyone in the crowd took it as an opportunity to proudly throw up their middle fingers in protest.
A portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.