On Sunday 6th June JJG, Glen, SMCT, Sangue Bom and I went to the free Rage Against the Machine in Finsbury Park in Cockneyland. We were there to celebrate, along with 40,000 the fact that common sense and decency prevailed in the face of the Music’s arch nemesis and heel lifter Simon Cowell was given a massive slap in the face by the ENTIRE nation. By that I mean of course that his X-Factor machine, this year fronted by Geordie eunuch Joe McElderry (who?!?), was beaten to Christmas number one by the RATM’s “Killing in the Name of”!
After the gig we left quickly as our southern visas had expired and I didn’t want to catch anything, and came back to comforting bosom of Manchester. The day after the RAGE gig, on Monday 7th June Elle Bee, Sausage, Kieran C and I went see the gargantuan Jay-Z play at the uninspiring craphole that is the MEN Arena (I should declare that have many MANY issues with that place – watch this blog for more info folks!). So two days, two massive acts, two mega gigs – Rage Against the Machine vs Jay Z. Who wins?? FIGHT!
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Well – this is an easy round for RATM and not necessarily Jay-Z’s fault. The MEN arena is a vacuous hole of a building that is designed to suck the atmosphere out of an event with greater efficiency than a black hole. To be fair though – Jay Z killed it there and was definitely one of the best acts I’ve seen at the MEN (nee NYNEX). Unfortunately that always makes me think “what would that have been like at the Apollo?” Finsbury Park by contrast had it going on! The weather was great and for an open air venue the sound was unreal, plus they sold ice cream – Boom!
Rage – 1: Jay Z – 0
The Stage Set Up
I have been to see hundreds of acts in my short life 😉 and Jay-Z easily had the best stage setup I have ever seen. If you can imagine Superman’s fortress of solitude but with LCD stalagmites in place of the ice columns you will get the idea. This showed pictures and videos during the songs at times representing the NYC skyline and others the biggest stack of Marshall amps. This was fucking awesome – I don’t think the pictures portrayed this set up well enough! Rage had the standard band set up with big screens set up so that the crowd that stretched as far back as Space staion Mir could see Tom Morello’s soloing. Nothing special but to be honest they didn’t need anything and maybe the big set up that Jay-Z had highlights the flaws in what would normally be a one man show, but the Jigga Man wins this round.
Rage – 1: Jay-Z – 1
The Support Act
I’m putting this as a draw. Both had the opportunity to pull out some big guns and make the gigs extra special. Jay-Z event taunted at time with talk about Kanye West coming out last time he played in Manc. Instead of Kanye he had Mr Hudson. Now is this some kind of MASSIVE JOKE that I don’t get? Why oh why oh why oh why is Mr Hudson flavour of the month over there? The other support was Drake why I personally thought was pretty good – only really a couple of good songs and could do good things in the future. He’s only 23, the bastard! Elle Bee referred to him as “a wally.” I could see why to be fair.
The problem with Rage’s support line up was that I was promised Cypress Hill and then didn’t deliver. Dammit! We had Gallows, who were loud and indecipherable but energetic, and to be honest I could be arsed dealing with them after arriving on the back of a 5hour train journey and wedding induced hangover from the night before (congratulations Crystal and Adam!). Roots Manuva was cool but it was all a build up to him playing “Witness” and finally we had Gogol Bordello – who to be fair got the crowd going and had some interesting ditties but I could never see myself buying any of their stuff. No Cypress Hill though…. I give them one a piece!
Rage – 2: Jay-Z – 2
Inspite of the appearance from the outside, a rock moshpit on the inside is an area of friendly angst. Everyone is aware of the dangers If someone falls over every one helps pick them up. Nobheads are not tolerated. In the event that a nobhead steps into your area the people surrounding you will come to your aide like a school of dolphins protecting a calf from a shark attack. In extreme cases of nobheadedness this can resemble a piranha attack on a bloodied lame goose. This testament was true at the Rage gig, aside from the paper cup of warm liquid, highly suspected to be urine, that glanced off my head and caught Glen full blow to his right cheek. Inspite of this I sleep in the confidence that whatever nobhead threw the suspect liquid would have been reprimanded piranha style, the kind of piranhas that carry massive bits of wood with nails sticking out of them.
At Jay-Z, however, the nobheads were in full effect. There was a herd of the just in front of us and to the right. To be fair though – there was also A LOT of hot chicks kicking about. That said, it’s a point to Rage.
Rage – 3: Jay-Z – 2
I went to the RATM gig knowing that I would know 90% of the tunes and so would the rest of the crowd and this was the case and facilitated the worlds biggest singing bounce-around and this was great! They didn’t play “Wake Up” though which is a major bugbear of mine!
Jay-Z came to the stage on the wave of 11 solo studio albums and an infinite number of collaborative tunes that he could pull out at any time. I was concerned that I wouldn’t know that many tunes from that vast repertoire but his set list was quality touching upon tracks that span the whole length of the back catalogue. This was detrimental as “Empire State of Mind”, my favourite tune of last year and possibly the last decade was swallowed up by the rest of the big hitters and became an also ran. One a piece!
Rage – 4: Jay-Z – 3
So there you have it! Rage Against the Machine was better than Jay-Z, but only just! Jay-Z was one of the best gigs I have ever been to and maybe the best at the MEN (Municipal Eggplant Nihilistic) Arena. I think it comes down to the atmosphere and the vibe at the RATM gig was stupendous and at times a bit emotional. It was a well-fought fight though! Just in case you're wondering this track "Bombtrack" was my favourite at the gig – so ner! K*