Rock Hall Special: Rage Against The Machine

Revolutionary Protest Rock For The Masses

Zack de la Rocha, Tom Morello, Brad Wilk
Killing (It) In The Name Of: Rage Against the Machine’s farewell tour endured multiple
delays but never lost momentum as one of the most-anticipated tours and well-received performances of the last few years. Pictured is the band’s gig at United Center in 2022. Photo by Rob Grabowski / Invision / AP

Truly memorable rock and roll does not happen in a vacuum. The truly influential stand out not only sonically, but thematically and culturally, bringing fresh energy and a message that resonates with fans and critics in ways they can’t even quantify.

Such is the case of Rage Against The Machine, whose name and therefore mission state in no small terms the kind of defiance long associated with the most respected rock, punk and hip-hop music of all time.

Since forming in 1991, Rage has worn its politics on its sleeves, hammering on hot-button issues like police brutality, racial oppression and land rights for indigenous peoples, just as relevant today as during any period.

The band’s music is just as fresh as its message, with frontman Zack de la Rocha bringing credible rap chops to a rhythm section as tight as it is intentional.

Guitarist Tom Morello, borrowing from the effective and tried-and-true riffage of classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, is simultaneously a pioneer of guitar tech wizardry, utilizing analog effects in creative ways and inspiring generations of guitarists, musicians and admirers.

The band recorded just four LPs from 1992 to 2000, including the cover-heavy Renegades that was released after the band’s first breakup in 2000. Rage was solidly at the arena level touring-wise at that time, and later reunited for special projects from 2007 to 2011 including Coachella and other major festivals across the world.

Morello continued as Prophets of Rage, a supergroup featuring members of Public Enemy, until in 2019 Rage Against the Machine announced it was reuniting for its first shows in nine years and first major tour since 1999, the “Public Service Announcement.”

The hype from fans was off the charts, but the timing was not great, as COVID saw the band as one of the first to indefinitely postpone a major tour due to the pandemic.

From there, the tour was rescheduled for spring and summer of 2022 but, during the band’s second show at United Center in Chicago, de la Rocha injured his Achilles during the set and, although he performed seated for the remainder of that North American leg, the band ultimately canceled the second U.S. tour leg and all European dates.

Still, the reunited Rage put up some monster grosses, including five nights at Madison Square Garden ($8.2 million) and two nights at Capital One Arena in D.C. ($3.3 million).

Speaking to KCRW-FM on Oct. 18, Morello said that, despite the band’s penchant for resisting the establishment, Rage is in good company at the Rock Hall.

“Dude, I’m in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame with N.W.A., Public Enemy, The Clash, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, Patti Smith, people who have very much changed my life. I’m very, very proud of that,” he said.