The Boston Tea Party started at the Old South Meeting House in December 1773. Now, in October 2018, it’s where the revolution continued, at the hands of guitar god and social justice vanguard Tom Morello.
Bringing the resistance to the Freedom Trail last Thursday night (October 4), the guitar virtuoso put on a clinic, dubbed The Atlas Underground Experience, comprised of the aspects of a career that has made him one of the most well-respected voices in both music and political discourse, while also acting as a celebration of his upcoming solo album, The Atlas Underground.
Part live interview, part face-melting shred demonstration, part album listening party, and a little bit of a concert vibe thrown in for some extra flavor, Morello fanned the flames of political angst inside the bellies of on-lookers with a cornucopia of sound and social insight that had everyone’s attention.
“The revolution was fomented within these walls many years ago, and once this night is through, hopefully revolution will be fomented again,” Morello told the overflowing crowd as he sat down to chat with Loudwire’s Brian Ives for the interview portion of the evening.
Over the next hour of chatting, Morello shared insights to current events, photos from early on in his playing days, and a whole slew of stories that kept the crowd entertained, as well as informed on how bands like Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave came to be. The Harvard grad has come a long way from wearing shirts made out of trash bags and playing his first gigs with his band Electric Sheep, which included Tool guitarist Adam Jones — and Morello took a few moments throughout the sit-down to display his exodus from a disciple of Randy Rhoads by playing the solo from “Mr. Crowley” he learned early on, and the origin of the signature “turntable” soloing technique, to his collaborations with Michael Moore, Bruce Springsteen, and Chris Cornell.
As a precursor to another guitar demonstration, Morello spun a yarn about his time working with Cornell in Audioslave, and discussed the excitement he felt working with the late grunge God, as well as the hardships he witnessed Cornell go through during their time together.
The crowd began to rumble as Morello stood up and made his way to his acoustic guitar, to which he replied, “Please keep it low for me and my buddy, Chris,” before finger-picking his way into “Garden of Gethsemane” — a tune penned during the “Nightwatchman” era of Morello’s solo career as a tribute to his friend.
The listening party portion of the evening began right around 10 p.m., as Morello shared his newest studio effort in full — a record that includes collaborations with everyone from Killer Mike of Run The Jewels and Tim McIlrath of Rise Against fame, to EDM superstar Steve Aoki, Marcus Mumford, and Portugal. the man — and if the vibrations coming up from the floor confirmed that this album of what Morello calls “social justice ghost stories” is a righteous banger (it is), then the waves of ovation after each song were obviously representative of how the crowd felt about it.
As the clock inched closer to 10:45, it seemed as if some of the crowd began to get a bit antsy about the prospect of Morello infringing upon the city’s eleven o’clock sound ordinance, but in true honey badger fashion, Tom Morello obviously didn’t really seem to give a fuck.
The guitar God, and arguably the hardest boss battle on Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, capped the night off with a trio of tunes — the first of which being Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad” — and what started out as a semi-quiet solo performance turned into a raging sing-along once Morello rose his guitar to his mouth to play a solo with his teeth, revealing the words “Fuck Kavanaugh” written on the back of the guitar, to which the crowd energetically responded to with foundation-shaking pandemonium.
“I’m not done yet!” Morello screamed as he brought the mic stand down into the crowd before starting the first verse of the Woody Guthrie classic “This Land is Your Land,” which had everyone join in for a moment of awe-inspiring solidarity, singing along in unison as Morello urged everyone to put their phones away and live in the moment. (Update: They didn’t but it was cool, nonetheless.)
Then, as Morello traded his acoustic guitar for his Telecaster, all hell broke loose as the opening power chord of Rage Against The Machine’s quintessential rebel anthem, “Killing In The Name Of” reverberated off the walls of the one-time church building, and the night was closed on a rousing note.
Depending on the vocal aspirations of his peers to end what was certainly a memorable evening, Morello strummed the iconic riff as the crowd sang the lyrics, but he made sure to end the night with a bang, as he stood up on a pew, with his middle fingers in the air, and shouted along to everyone’s favorite part of the song — “FUCK YOU, I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!” — putting the cap on the night, and sending the fans home angry, in the best possible way.
Tom Morello ensured a politically jaded audience that the revolution was alive and well on Thursday night in Boston, all the while, reminding the crowd that fighting the power can be fun, as long as your Marshall stack is cranked to the max. It’s also fun to think about what Samuel Adams would have to say about a mosh pit nearly breaking out at Old South Meeting House.
Featured photo by Jason Greenough; follow him on Twitter @DadBodVanilla.