Learn the rules, then break them!” and “Aim for the world you want” are just some of the inspiring lines from Tom Morello’s one-man show titled Speaking Truth to Power Through Stories and Song at the Minetta Lane Theater on Wednesday, September 18th, the first of three shows being recorded by Audible for future download.
On a sparse stage Morello entered speaking poetry before backing tracks kicked in allowing him to display his heavy metal guitar flourishes while images were displayed around sayings like “Turn your illness into a weapon”, kick-starting the evening. What followed was an engaging trip through Tom’s life and career as he regaled the sold-out crowd with tales of his youth and childhood in Libertyville, Illinois dealing with overt racism all the way up until his recent acoustic offerings and political work.
His honesty was enthralling as he described his activist parents, his mother Mary Morello was an organizer and unrepentant revolutionary who changed the world in a positive way. His father Ngethe Njoroge was a freedom fighter and Ambassador from Kenya who was not truly in his life until adulthood but was major presence throughout.
Morello mixed in high school dealings with the ACLU regarding his underground newspaper with ripping solos crafted around sound effects and scratching on six strings. He mentioned that with Rage Against the Machine his goal was to “make the DJ obsolete” by making far-out sounds with his guitar. His tale about being inspired by Secretariat and taking the blinders off to use the guitar as a sound instrument was unique and shines a light on his inspiration which popped up in the oddest of places.
Major props were given to Chris Cornell and Bruce Springsteen whose recent Broadway show was a clear blueprint for this night. Morello was excited, nervous and inspired throughout and when some major technical guitar issues arose he took questions from the crowd, speaking to recording the first Rage record at Sound City in front of a small crowd and Pete Seeger’s birthday. He discussed doing a reverse Bob Dylan (going electric to acoustic) and his Cub fandom (he was rocking a Cubs hat for the full show) before ending the evening explaining his Nightwatchmen evolution and fighting for human rights and social justice around the world.
Morello asked for help from the crowd inviting everyone to sing “Killing In The Name” as he played his most famous riffs before a set-closing “This Land Is Your Land” complete with full verses not often sung, urging all hands on deck to change the world together.