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POP MUSIC REVIEWS

Fiery Homecoming for Rage Against the Machine

September 30, 1996|SARA SCRIBNER

An image of Che Guevara and an upside-down U.S. flag on which had been written "you've been tricked" flanked the stage during Rage Against the Machine's homecoming show at the Universal Amphitheatre on Saturday.

Throughout the set, which kicked off four local shows by a group that returned home last week after four months on the road, the visibly exhausted band members thrashed through sonic bombshells inspired by the motto, "Anger is a gift." The group delivered buzz-saw guitar-metal anthems fired by political indignation, a combination that has made Rage one of the most successful overtly leftist rock groups ever.

Its message pitted the band against "Saturday Night Live" last spring, when Rage attempted to display its props during a show guest-hosted by Steve Forbes. But it has not kept Rage's seductive punk, aggro-funk and metal sound, all overlaid by front man Zack de la Rocha's hot-wired raps, from selling more than 1 million copies of its latest album, "Evil Empire."

The set opened with "People of the Sun"--a song that lobs a Molotov cocktail of dissent toward supporters of Proposition 187--with De la Rocha spitting the words, "Tha City of Angels does tha ethnic cleanse." De la Rocha updated another song about racism, "Killing in the Name," substituting church burning for cross burning.

De la Rocha's energy sometimes flagged, forcing him to crouch at the back of the stage to rest as the enthusiastic crowd, primed by opening sets by Stanford Prison Experiment and Girls Against Boys, punched fists in the air, moshed and stage dived.

But it was a passionate, angry speech delivered by the front man regarding the rebels in Chiapas--a respite aided by an uncharacteristically jazzy interlude--that was the show's most potent moment. Although the maelstrom of furious guitar work fuels this group, the spark of Rage's fire lies in its heartfelt socialist beliefs.

* Rage Against the Machine plays Tuesday and Wednesday at the Hollywood Palladium, 6250 Sunset Blvd., 7 p.m. Tuesday sold out, Wednesday $13. (213) 962-7600.

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