Tom Morello and friends launch a revolution at Berklee

A review of The Justice Tour at the Berklee Performance Center on April 27, 2008

, Editor-in-Chief

Revolution is at the heart of rock n’ roll. Music has always been a way for citizens to convey their feelings at the injustice, bigotry, and corruption in governments. But when it’s successful, it goes beyond music and inspires movements. And that’s just what Tom Morello is attempting to do with his brief “Justice Tour”, which hit Boston on Sunday night.

Morello, known best for his work as guitarist for Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave, is active in numerous social movements. The Justice Tour lets him focus on each by devoting one cause only for each of the seven cities the tour stops at. Here in the hub, Morello was advocating for universal healthcare, fitting considering Massachusetts recently became the first state to mandate such a policy and Boston is renowned for its world famous hospitals. His other causes, like Iraqi War Veterans Against the War, are still allowed to have booths in the venue’s lobby. The tour also promotes its blue-collar roots by bringing probably the best bargain show of the year. For only $15, a strong crowd at the Berklee Performance Center was treated to a 3-hour show that boasted a collection of national and hometown talent.

Opening the show solo under his moniker “The Nightwatchman”, Morello delivered a brief set of powerful folks tunes reminiscent of his incredible show at TT’s last summer and gig at the Paradise last fall. The set was all too brief but included a haunting “Garden of Gethsemane” and a passionate haromica-laced rendition of Rage’s “Guerilla Radio”.

The rest of the night, Morello placed the role of emcee introducing a wealth of special guests, all of whom he would collaborate with. The Coup’s Boots Riley and hometown favorite Mr. Lif provided the hip-hop. Riley’s set, the first of the special guests, include the Coup’s "5 Million Ways to Kill a C.E.O.". Later in the night, Mr. Lif hit the stage backed by Morello and slew of freestyles that seemingly touched everything, including a comical take on fast food.&

New York’s Jesse Malin’s set was highlighted by the melancholy of “Aftermath”, a song he said was inspired by the idea of young activists settling down in a world they once tried to revolutionize. Local folk singer and self-proclaimed organizer Evan Greer brought the most unabashed liberal propaganda with songs like “Hey FEMA” and “Ya Basta”.&

Extreme’s Gary Cherone was the biggest unannounced guest of the night. Alongside his two brothers, he delivered a pair of new tunes “Painters Paint” and “Just Warfare” from their project Hurtsmile. The brothers were joined by their bandmates in Slipkid, a tribute band to The Who, for a splendid rendition of “My Generation”. They would top themselves later in the night with “Who Are You”, a song where Cherone’s vocals shone just as bright as Daltry. Seriously, if you’re a fan of The Who, check out their next show.&

The MC5’s Wayne Kramer just turned 60-years old, but he was just as vibrant as when his legendary band cuased all hell at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago 40 years ago. He quickly made it known during his solo set when he screamed, “Where’s Lee Harvey Oswald now that we really need him?”, during a firiery new tune, “Something Broken in the Promised Land”.& “Junkie Romance” soon followed to complete his swift two-song set, though he remianed on stage for most of the evening.&

State Radio’s ascension into the spotlight has been remarkable, and they were given a hero’s welcome. They returned the favor by invigorating the night with a quick set of “CIA”, “Camilo”, and, thanks to Morello, an amazing take on “Gang of Thieves”. Their set brought the crowd to their feet, where they would remain for remainder of the show.

The final hour was a full jam session with Morello and a rotating cast of the night’s performers. It wasn’t exactly smooth, as stagehands passed on music sheets and Morello barked out orders, but it was memorable nonetheless. The final stretch was highlighted by Morello and Kramer’s take on the MC5 hit “Kick Out the Jams” and Morello collaboration with State Radio on Jimmy Cliff’s reggae classic “The Harder They Come”. Sprinkled throughout were plenty of awe-inspiring “Guitar Hero” solos from Morello, who also lightened the mood by delivering the hysterical, “Shake My Shit” (a Nightwatchman original jam). The show came to a rousing end with “This Land is Your Land”, complete with Woody Guthrie’s lost verse that sparked a passionate sing and jump-along.&

In an election year when all we hear is the magic word of "change", it’s refreshing to note that Morello knows the only place it can happen. As the show came to end Morello declared, “It’s in your hands”. Change cannot happen at the top without a change at the bottom, and though the “Justice Tour” may have lit a match on Sunday, lighting the fire is left to those in the stands.

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