The Nightwatchman (Tom Morello) at TT the Bear’s Place on June 27

A review of The Nightwatchman (Tom Morello) at TT the Bear's Place on June 27, 2007

, Staff Writer

On the hottest night of the year, in front of a raucous crowd, a “nylon string acoustic folk protest show” reached out from T.T. the Bear’s Place in Cambridge to channel workers in New York, hurricane victims in New Orleans, and immigrants along the Mexican border. The Nightwatchman, aka Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave,& brought his songs of labor movements, government inadequacy, and rebellion to a city familiar with left-wing politics for an intimate, rousing set.

Morello greeted the dedicated crowd with the introduction, “I’m the Nightwatchman, and this is a one man revolution,” playing the title track of his debut solo album One Man Revolution.& His raspy baritone was more like Johnny Cash singing “Hurt” than Cash singing “Ring of Fire,” but it was perfectly suited for the preachy nature of the show.

Apparently the T.T.’s management warned Morello that bands from the Middle East might drown out his solo acoustic show, but Morello responded by saying that the venue should “worry about the Nightwatchman fans drowning out the band downstairs.” He was just about right, as the crowd possessed an enthusiasm and energy that bordered on scary.

That fear also came from the tradition that Morello channeled, notably that of everyone’s favorite folk revolutionary, Woody Guthrie. Before beginning “Maximum Firepower” Morello gave a nod to Guthrie, saying that “this machine here kills fascists too” of his guitar. “Flesh Shapes the Day” was a bluesy shuffle with a powerful release in its chorus of “hoo hoo hoooo.”

Morello continued to acknowledge the crowd, saying that he had “played in Boston to many an audience bigger than this one, but never an audience better than this one.” This praise was earned by remaining quiet and attentive to slower numbers like the lilting, somber “Midnight in the City of Destruction,” a song comparing the disaster in New Orleans to that of Hiroshima and considering the irredeemable loss of both cities.

The fans\’ attentiveness was rewarded with “House Gone Up In Flames” as Morello rocked his nylon strings as hard as humanly possible, delivering the first quasi-guitar solo of the night, a rhythmic series of strums, to a huge crowd response. A song about Morello’s favorite guitarist, Joe Hill, quieted the crowd back down. Morello imagined Joe Hill as a sort of Tom Joad, which brought to mind Rage’s cover of the Springsteen song inspired by John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

That sort of channel of influences was a pattern of the night, as Morello combined folk, heavy metal, blues, flamenco, and many other flavors into his music. The most well received style came when Morello claimed that “Irish rebel songs have been in my blood.” Fortunately for him Irish rebel songs were in the blood of most of the concertgoers, making “The Road I Must Travel,” with it’s “Na Na Na’s” the joyous highlight of the night.

The quiet, haunting “Garden of Gethsemane” did little to detract from the crowd’s excitement, and they were again rewarded with an upbeat song. This time it was a muddy blues take on Rage’s "Guerrilla Radio." The new arrangement was refreshing, and proved that the song musically stands up without Zach de la Rocha’s rapping. The line “All hell can’t stop us now” worked so much better with the new rhythm, and, combined with the passion of the crowd, it appeared as if all hell would in fact have a difficult task ahead of it.

After one extremely brief encore break Morello played “Alone Without You,” a song he penned for Michael Moore’s new film Sicko, before giving the ultimate homage to Guthrie by leading the crowd in “This Land is Your Land.” What began as a strange sing-along of a kindergarten tune became much more powerful as Morello sang the previously censored, populist verses. The ensuing mosh pit was devoid of violence, and instead displayed the unity and camaraderie that emanated from the songs of The Nightwatchman.

The night ended with “Until the End” as Morello promised “I’ll never turn / I’ll never bend / I’m with you now / Until the end.” Indeed the songs of The Nightwatchman have burrowed their way into my brain, as I’m sure they have done to many who have heard them. While they may not have been musically perfect, the messages that the songs contained were strong and strongly conveyed. Morello is further proof that one man and one guitar have the power to change.

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