Review Summary: An opportunity to experience one of the most honest and energetic bands of our era.
As one of the most politically charged and innovative crossover bands to emerge in the 90's, it seems only fitting that a DVD compilation of their career so far should be released. Unfortunately it only covers the first 2 albums, the debut self titled and Evil Empire. As a result of this we have a collection of live appearances and music videos in order to fill it out .
One of the main challenges with music DVD's, especially in the case of live concert footage, is that its very difficult to capture the true energy and pulse of a live performance, RATM especially so. Fortunately somebody here must have got their heads together and dredged the archives to pull out only the finest performances put to film at the time of release. Here goes a brief run down of the delights on offer here.
Kicking off is The ghost of Tom Joad and Vietnow. Tom Joad is a cover of an old Springsteen song which blows up in your face with the usual energy of any rage performance but Vietnow, with that dirty intro from Morrello, has a sense of urgency that's such a trade mark on the punkier Evil Empire.
Tracks 4-7 have been taken from MTV's live 'n' direct from the 1996 Rock Am Ring festival in Germany. It kicks off with the unmistakable People of the Sun followed by Bulls on Parade. Bullet in the head comes next, with Zapata's blood, a b-side never actually released as a studio track ending that stage of the DVD. The band are clearly up for it and the sound is exceptional due to the accurate mixing of all members of the band, including Tim's bass lines, a common problem with live broadcasts and DVD's.
Next we have some excellent footage of the Reading festival from 1996. I clearly remember this being a hugely anticipated appearance due to the fact that it was the first time in a while Rage had been to the UK. Know your enemy is the first up and this gem has one of the highlights of the entire DVD, it will leave your jaw on the floor. The stage lighting is dark and the sun has gone down but towards the end of the track the audience lights switch on. What the cameras reveal next is that magic DVD often lacks. The camera pan's around to reveal the entire crowd, 85,000 strong, all the way to the back, going absolutely bananas. Bombtrack and Tire me follow next but don't seem to have the same impact after such a display of power over the crowd.
The last live track stands alone, the signature song Killing in the name taken from the Pink Pop festival in 1994. When a band blows up big and realizes they are able to pull a full festival crowd there's a certain kind of excitement, almost an innocence in the performance. Zack De La Rocha and friends hold nothing back and take no prisoners here. The look on Zack's face shows that every word he hammers at you is sincere and that if you ignore his message he will eat you, its wake up time!
The second section is the uncut music videos. As videos they offer very little in the way of revealing much about the band or the message but nice to have for fans and completists. The standout track is Bullet in the Head because it isn't just a collection of live footage with the song being played over the top. Also included is a poem written and dictated by Zach over a short film to do with some of the injustices and causes championed by the band. Check out the small bit of Tom's mother damning some of the record chain's censorship policies, very funny.
To summarize, it has to be said that this is by no means a perfect DVD. The sound quality of some of the live recordings are not what you would call pristine but the performances are some of the most passionate I've seen from them. Many of us here have the chance to watch this and remember the assault on our senses and the blast they gave us seeing them, whilst some will be able to see what they missed, sorry. Seeing this proves that you don't have to hit your drums as hard as you can, scream as loud as possible, trash your guitars, make an inaudible sound, wear black or display a teen angst against nothing in particular to make an impact that these guys did. Rage Against the Machine will continue to influence and be part of popular culture for many years as a result of the passion of their live shows and honesty of their music exemplified in this DVD.