There are some musicians that when you hear they are playing in your area, you’re almost obligated to find a way into the show. The list is beginning to dwindle as time drags on, however some names are so engrained into the fabric of music that hordes of fans will be seeing them until the day they die, regardless of the project they are working on. Tom Morello fits into that (seemingly) waning list. On Monday, October 1st, Morello pleased a limited number of fans with his Atlas Underground CD release party to promote his new solo album in New York’s (le) poisson rouge.
It was the first time a US audience had heard the album in its entirety, but before Morello gave New York a glimpse of the goods, he sat down with a moderator for a compelling Q+A. Spanning nearly an hour and a half, the discussion began with stories from the start of Morello’s extensive career, and included pictures of him as a child and Morello playing in his first band. The discussion progressed as the timeline of his life moved forward, and through it all he gave a serious look at who he was as a musician, how he became who he is, and what/who influenced him through the years.
In between each major milestone, Morello picked up his guitar and jammed out on the style he was interested in at each point during his career. This gave the audience a glimpse of why he played what he did, the thought process of his change, and how he ended up with a certain tone/style. As he told fascinating stories from playing with his first band, to recording music videos with Rage Against the Machine, to getting on stage with Bruce Springsteen for the first time, and jammed his way through his career, the small audience was able to paint a full picture of who Morello was as a musician, and how he got to where he is now.
The Q+A ended the first part of the evening, and once everyone in the room understood how Morello progressed as a musician, he played his new album, Atlas Underground, in its entirety for the entranced group. The album, he declared, was influenced by hearing the group Knife Party, and deciding to create an EDM based album with a slew of popular musicians. The album features groups such as Knife Party, Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, Portugal the Man, and Gary Clark Jr, and each song features a taste of the contributing artist’s sound layered with Morello’s signature style. Although he didn’t play along with the album, before each song began he discussed why the song was written, what it was about, and how it came to be.
The audience was incredibly receptive to Morello’s new work, and once the album ended he picked up his guitar and began to do what everyone was waiting all night for; playing his signature songs. To the excitement of the audience he jumped into Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Jones,” among other tunes, before ramping into full gear with a thrilling version of “Killing in the Name.” As the audience began to get their fill of live Morello tunes, he discussed how later in life he began to realize that in many cases folk songs were just as heavy as heavy metal songs, and that it was important to him that they were played accordingly. To end the show, he invited the entire audience on stage with him for a sing-a-long rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” leaving every face, on stage and off, in smiles.