Photos by Marco Denzer | Words by Audra Tracy

‘It has to start somewhere / It has to start sometime

What better place than here? / What better time than now?’

After an 11 year hiatus from touring, and 2 years of multiple COVID-related delays, 90’s icons Rage Against the Machine returned to Madison Square Garden for a five night run of reunion shows. Some fans in attendance had purchased tickets to the band’s Public Service Announcement Tour back in 2019, and with 2 postponements since then, it seemed these shows might never happen. So on Friday night, the air inside the arena was buzzing with amplified energy and anticipation. This was not your typical rock show.

An opening set from powerhouse duo Run the Jewels got the crowd fired up, and by 9:00, New Yorkers were ready to let loose. The house lights dimmed at 9:15, and then, at last, Rage Against the Machine emerged to face an eager audience. Together, all four original members: Zack de la Rocha, Tim Commerford, Tom Morello, and Brad Wilk, quickly seized the spotlight, kicking things off with ‘Bombtrack’. The mosh-pit was in full motion, and the walls may have been shaking already, yet the simmering set kept building in momentum, with 90’s radio hits ‘People of the Sun’ and ‘Bulls on Parade’ following, and easily riling up anyone within earshot.

Notoriously fierce on stage, frontman Zack de la Rocha remained seated on a monitor throughout the show, due to a leg injury he recently sustained on tour. But the wild-eyed passion and intensity of his vocal delivery still captivated even those in the upper deck, especially during songs like ‘Guerilla Radio’, ‘Take the Power Back’, and ‘Calm Like a Bomb’. And if you did need some sort of spectacle to hold your gaze, Tom Morello’s mesmerizing guitar riffs and swagger definitely stood up to the test of time, too.

Hearing hit after hit from the band’s first 3 studio albums (Rage Against the Machine (1992), Evil Empire (1996), and 1999’s The Battle of Los Angeles) was a strong reminder of what an undeniable impact the music made back then – and how much of its message still applies today. But RATM doesn’t just talk the talk – to this day, the band continues to donate ticket sales to various causes – most recently to reproductive rights and anti-racism groups.

The band closed an epic set of head-bangers with their biggest smash hit. The song that was worth the price of admission. The song that literally helped incite a riot at Woodstock ’99. That’s right, the opening of notes to ‘Killing in the Name…’ filled the room, and gave the Garden full license to erupt with a maniacal glee that was equal parts cathartic and terrifying.

Whether fans came for the nostalgia or the politics, RATM provided a very important public service: transporting fans back to an era when MTV was still cool, and moshing with strangers was the only accessible form of therapy.


  1. Bombtrack
  2. People of the Sun
  3. Bulls on Parade
  4. Bullet in the Head
  5. Testify
  6. Tire Me
  7. Take the Power Back
  8. Guerrilla Radio
  9. Fistful of Steel(First performance since 1997)
  10. Know Your Enemy
  11. Calm Like a Bomb
  12. Sleep Now in the Fire
  13. Born of a Broken Man
  14. War Within a Breath
  15. The Ghost of Tom Joad(Bruce Springsteen cover)
  16. Freedom
  17. Township Rebellion
  18. Killing in the Name

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