Show Of The Year? Tom Morello Destroys Varsity Theater With Sound And Passion


Last night definitely didn’t go as planned. My calm and peaceful ravioli dinner turned into a frantic moment of me shoving my two cats into one carrier (they were pissed), grabbing my phone and running out of my apartment as smoke took over my side of the apartment building. It was just a kitchen fire two doors down from me and everyone (and their pets) are fine but it was definitely one of the scariest moments of my life and to say I was shook would be an understatement. It took awhile for the firefighters (at least there were some cute ones) to clear my apartment of smoke since I was so close to where it started and, even after it was cleared, there was still a smoky haze and an awful smell. I felt terrible as I dumped my cats out of the crammed carrier and back into my apartment. I knew they were freaked out but I was late for a show that I just wasn’t willing to miss. After giving them a couple more treats than I probably should have and headed to my show. To say I felt guilty would be an understatement but I was about to see the one and only Tom Morello perform– I’m pretty sure my cats understood.

I got to The Varsity Theater just in time for Bones UK to kick their set off. As soon as the trio took the stage I was captivated. There was something dark and mysterious about vocalist and rhythm guitarist Rosie Bones and there was something powerful and commanding about Carmen Vandenberg. Their music was a little K. Flay meets The Kills but their attitude was straight up The Fever 333 meets Rage Against The Machine (making them the perfect opening act for Tom Morello). Their opinion were clearly strong and opinions that I 100% back. From the story about the guy at the bar in their hometown of Camden Town, London that told them their band was good but will never be as good as his because women can’t play guitar to their song “Beautiful is Boring” about being true to yourself and find beauty in yourself even when society tells you otherwise– yeah, Bones UK is a band that I felt a connection with within just seconds of them taking the stage. To say I fell in love with this band would be an understatement and I would jump at the opportunity to see them again. What a powerful band with a powerful statement and a stunning sound. Yes– my gushing over Bones UK means you really need to check them out.

Where do I even begin with headliner Tom Morello. You know his name (at least I hope you do) and probably even know his music. From his work with Rage Against the Machine to Audioslave to Prophets of Rage to The Nightwatchmen and every other project he’s had his hand in between all of those, Tom Morello is a legend… a God among men. There’s no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. The only other time I’ve been able to catch this legend was back in 2008 at the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul. I won’t go into all of the detail but there was drama due to riot police not letting Rage Against the Machine play (again… won’t go into details but Google it and you’ll find out what happened). I don’t remember much from that night due to adrenaline but I remember being just feet away from Tom Morello and his bandmates as they just played an acoustic set from the middle of the crowd. A mixture of things, including the drama behind refusing to let RATM play on stage, led to a massive march and protest in Saint Paul. That was the first time I really found my passion for politics and for speaking my mind (it was also my first time getting pepper sprayed and detained by police for rioting) and I honestly have Tom Morello and his power and conviction to thank for that. He sparked something inside of me, hell, he sparked something inside an entire generation… hell, generations.. yeah, last night was one of those shows that I had been dying for and, when it finally came, it passed all of my expectations within seconds.

It was no surprise to me that Tom’s set was kicked off by images being shown on a screen towards the back of the stage. A clear call for action and a reminder of just how terrible this world can be (as if we all needed a reminder), the images were powerful and almost disturbing at times. I kept watching the stage and the side of the stage just waiting to see the one and only Tom Morello so I was a little shocked when, out of nowhere, the images stopped and a spotlight kicked on pointing to the middle of the crowd. There he was, standing on a small platform literally dead center in the audience with his guitar in hand. For being such a big deal, such a name, such an influence… to see him start his set from the crowd and, later on, open his stage up to members of the audience spoke louder than words. Yes, we were watching Tom Morello– the legend– but, when you cut it down, he’s just one of us– a person with heart and passion.

From covers to Rage Against the Machine songs to original compositions, Tom Morello’s set was all over the place in the most perfect way. You could hear the influences from reggae to punk all the way to EDM, every song brought a different vibe to the set but was clearly Tom Morello’s due to his unique and innovative guitar playing techniques. He’s a true innovator when it comes to guitar playing and really pushes the envelope as far as what you can do with a guitar. Some of those things have become just standard in different circles in the music world but to see the Godfather of it all do those things on stage just a couple yards in front of you was truly a dream come true. I could have stood there for a couple more hours just watching Tom perform. The positive energy he gave off without saying a word was beyond stunning and the music wasn’t half bad either. My mind was going a hundred miles an hour when I walked into the show and my anxiety was out of control to say the least. The way that Tom Morello’s presence and music calmed me says far more than my words could ever say.

Tuesday night didn’t go as planned and honestly, had it been any other show, I probably would have bailed. I was frantic and my anxiety was out of control. Even through my anxiety and the craziness going on in my head, I apparently subconsciously knew that last night’s show was exactly what I needed. If he was able to soothe my nerves and my anxiety last night, just imagine what he could do if the entire world took the time to listen to him.