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Concert Reviews:
The Nightwatchman Doth Protest Enough
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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DETROIT -- Tom Morello's no dummy, but he didn't need to employ his Harvard degree to know how to win over a Detroit audience in his Tuesday night (July 10th) appearance as The Nightwatchman.

All it took was a sweaty basement venue (the Shelter) and the unapologetic working people's salute "Union Song" to get the capacity crowd's fists in the air near the start of a charged 90-minute show that translated the protest vibe of the early and mid-'60s into a contemporary expression -- Greenwich Village for the tattooed, pierced and mosh pit set. At 226 it was hardly the largest Motor City crowd Morello has played to in previous gigs here with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, but with just an acoustic guitar, a harmonica and his voice, he still managed to generate a concentrated version of the energy in those bands' larger venue shows.

The Nightwatchman is simply no wilting flower of a protest singer. In his book, peace and love are fine, but byproducts of justice and change that's brought about by any means necessary. That message came through loud and clear in the pounding fury of the title track of Morello's first Nightwatchman album, "One Man Revolution," as well as "Maximum Firepower," "Flesh Shapes the Day," the Celtic-flavored singalong "The Road I Must Travel" and a biting, bluesy arrangement of Rage's "Guerilla Radio." It also came across in the seething quiet of "Midnight in the City of Destruction" -- which he said was slated for the next Nightwatchman album -- "The Garden of Gethsemane," "Let Freedom Ring" and a rendition of "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night."

The Nightwatchman was not without a sense of humor, though. Amidst his pithy and intelligent song introductions, Morello, who donated proceeds from T-shirts and CD sales to Detroit's Greenery Community Food Bank, regaled the crowd with a hilarious memory of his one drug experience after accidentally eating a hash-laced cookie in Australia. And before "Alone Without You," his contribution to the soundtrack of the new Michael Moore film "Sicko," Morello recalled shooting the Rage video for "Sleep Now in the Fire" with the director on Wall Street, which resulted in Moore's arrest and the band's comical attempt to "take over" the New York Stock Exchange.

The Nightwatchman also made many promises on Tuesday night -- to continue the fight and, most promisingly, to return. For the couple of hundred Detroit partisans, that time can't come too soon.



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