It would appear that even an 11-year hiatus couldn't put rust on Audioslave's Tom Morello, Chris Cornell, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk, as the band reunited with a flawless three-song set on Friday night for the Anti Inaugural Ball in Los Angeles.
With only a soundcheck's worth of practice beforehand, the quartet was unfaltering while tearing through early singles "Cochise," "Like a Stone" and "Show Me How to Live." As fans would expect of the supergroup, Commerford and Wilk's rhythms were relentless, Cornell's vocals soared with his natural showmanship that included a stage dive and Morello's guitar playing was transcendent to a point where words can hardly do it justice.
Morello, Commerford and Wilk hosted the Teragram Ballroom event with their latest all-star ensemble, Prophets of Rage, which also includes Public Enemy's Chuck D and DJ Lord and B-Real of Cypress Hill. Aside from getting Audioslave back together for the concert -- which Morello said before the show was Cornell's idea -- they also recruited Jackson Browne, Vic Mensa and Jack Black to help protest Donald Trump's presidency, with proceeds going to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Coincidentally, as well, the night marked the 20-year anniversary of Morello, Commerford and Wilk's former band Rage Against the Machine's Radio Free Los Angeles protest concert coinciding with Bill Clinton's presidential inauguration.
If what Morello said was true, that "bad presidents make for great music," then one might think Trump is destined to be truly awful, as the night was a showcase of totally remarkable talent.
While each special guest brought an excitement of their own, no one grabbed the audience more than Prophet's performing Rage Against the Machine songs, which incited the mass of the crowd to sing along word-for-word with fists raised in the air. Playing "Testify," "Guerrilla Radio," "Bulls on Parade" and more, with tickets priced affordably at $25, the night was as much a gift to those lucky 600 fans able to snag tickets (and more than half a million more streaming online), as it was the "celebration of resistance" Morello called it in protest of the new President.
Black opened the night with some strong words for anyone suggesting it was not the right time to protest the freshly inaugurated Trump, that we need to "respect the presidency" and "give him a chance."
"F*** that bullshit," Black said with an impassioned but still comical deliver. "He blew that wth that racist f***ing sexist, misogynistic, hateful campaign of his."
He added, defending himself and the night to follow, "Freedom of speech bro, that includes right now."
From there, Chuck D took the stage with the an assemblage of teachers, union people, undocumented workers, veterans, Black Lives Matter activists, environmental activists and Muslim high school students called the Los Angeles Freedom Choir, delivering the lyrics of "Fight the Power" like a call to action. Jackson Browne played next with Morello joining him to close his set covering Bruce Springsteen's "The Ghost of Tom Joad," followed by Black's duo Tenacious D performing their song "The Government Totally Sucks" and then a totally captivating spoken word performance by B&Z that sent shivers through the audience.
Welcoming his musical partner Kyle Gass onstage, Black said that playing the song hasn't felt right over the past few years but now feels fitting again.
Hip-hop was well represented during the night as well as rock, with Vic Mensa stepping onstage for three songs, embodying what Morello called a "generational link" to the current generation of musical activists, though it did not seem the audience was familiar with his material. More easy to recognize were Chuck D and B-Real going track-for-track through their biggest hits with Public Enemy and Cypress Hill. Everlast of House of Pain showed up, as well, to treat the audience to "Jump Around."
"It's super important at this crucial juncture to let each other know and let the world know that we will not normalize Trump's point of view, Trump's cabinet, Trump's policies he's going to try to inflict on the nation," Morello said before the show. "There's going to be a strong opposition from hundreds of millions both domestically and around the world and this is the soundtrack for it."
Morello's message to the audience was clear: "Don't agonize, organize," he said, encouraging fans to take action and participate in acts of rebellion, including Saturday's Women's Marches planned around the world.
"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 is because people stood up for their rights during times of crisis," said Morello. "Now, with Trump and his KKK cabinet in office, is a time of crisis. We're beginning to stand up tonight."
The night ended with Prophets leading all the night's performers onstage to sing "Killing in the Name Of" like some middle-finger-up choir.
"Let's stay focused to this POTUS," Chuck D said ending the night, with the crowd's reaction optimistically suggesting they'll do just that.