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Page last updated at 14:33 GMT, Saturday, 23 August 2008 15:33 UK
Rage still have something to offer

By Julian Marshall
Newsbeat online editor at Reading Festival

Zack de la Rocha
Zack has the passion but are Rage still relevant?
If you cast your eye across the line-up for this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, there are hundreds of great bands, Bloc Party, The Killers, Vampire Weekend and The Last Shadow Puppets to name just four.

But there is only one who everybody wanted to see, or had an opinion on.

Strolling around the Reading site, the return of Rage Against The Machine to the main stage for the first time since 2000 is the only real talking point.

For anyone the wrong side of 30, it is like the Second Coming.

For those having just picked up the GCSE results the day before and who were barely born when they first played here, there's an intense curiosity for a band who have generated near mythical status since they disappeared without trace around the turn of the century.

But it begs the question, why are people still interested?

On paper their legacy isn't great: what they started in 1992 paved the way for the awful rap metal of Limp Bizkit to dominate the musical landscape, eight years later.

Tom Morello
The songs still rock, but this year isn't as powerful as past shows

When they split, singer Zack de la Rocha disappeared without a trace, leaving the rest of the band to trudge on as the bloated supergroup Audioslave - certainly no Joy Division to New Order moment.

And only one of their albums, a debut, can be considered a true classic.

But it was only after they split that rock fans realised what had been missing. Few bands can juggle politics and music without looking at best clumsy, at worst embarrassing.

Whereas someone like Johnny Borrell can sound patronising when talking about world issues, de la Rocha's polemics are delivered with a terrifying power.

Stage presence

On stage he presents the idea of a new world order based on government sanctioned killing, and suggests war crimes trials for political figures.

The band hooded wearing orange boiler suits
The band came on stage wearing orange boiler suits

It's a long way from Bono hanging out at the G8, that's for sure.

When they come onstage dressed in orange jumpsuits and fully hooded in a reference to American foreign policy it feels like he's taking a sledgehammer to a nut, but it is certainly effective.

Musically, you can forgive some of the songs sounding laboured because they've only played a handful of shows since 2000.

But when they hit their stride it's a joy.

Set opener Bombtrack, Know Your Enemy, Wake Up and a closing Killing in the Name sound like they could've been written yesterday.

But despite all the political posturing, the days of bands changing the world are long gone.

Their 90-minute return doesn't have the same raw power as their previous three appearances on the stage in 1993,1996 and 2000.

But nor does this feel like four ageing LA rockers clocking in some overtime to beef up their dwindling bank balance.

It ends with all four members, front of stage with arms locked together in a show of unity.

It's encouraging to see that, even after all these years, Rage Against The Machine still have more to offer than a nostalgic trip down memory lane.



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