Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, Street Sweeper Social Club – legendary axe man Tom Morello is used to playing loud music with his signature and unique style of guitar work. At a very intimate gathering at SoHo’s City Winery, Morello arrived for a solo show under his moniker – The Nightwatchman, who just released his latest album, World Wide Rebel Songs this week. While The Nightwatchman has been making stripped down, acoustic music solo since 2007.
While his fans are used to having him shred on his electric guitars, Morello walked on stage with his acoustic that read “Black Sparticus” and opened with “It Begins Tonight,” a chomping and thumping song that had the crowd banging their feet against the hard wood floor and saw Morello’s fingers go off like firecrackers across the fret board, it was right then and there that this is not going to be the calm and unassuming acoustic gig the crowd thought they were getting in to. With his voice, a raspy baritone but powerful tone, his words of activism and awareness were just as important and meaningful than ever before. Morello, is an outspoken activist of human rights and a major supporter of reasonable Union rights in this country, he has been campaigning in places like Wisconsin and South Korea for Unions to be fairly. Through the night, Tom would express how important Unions are and how they have shaped and built the America we love and live in and that diminishing them, especially in places like Wisconsin is a travesty, with Tom saying this to the faces of people in a city that thrives on Unions, it was a positive reaction to his expressions. While it was a night of serious music, Tom also knew how to have fun, dropping his acoustic and picking up his custom blue electric guitar with the phrase “Arm the Homeless” scribed across the body, it became moments of wonderment as they saw Morello in his more typical form but in such a small atmosphere. While it was back to what seem to be basics for Tom, he would then drive into his famous cover of Springsteen’s “Ghost of Tom Joad” that had his turning his guitar into a turntable as he dragged his hands across the strings, whipping his left hand around the neck and most impressively, taking the guitar to his mouth and playing with his teeth and tongue. In a epic performance such as that, it was the only way he could possibly close out his near 70-minute first set.
Morello would arrive promptly back on stage after to say “listen, I stick to my punk roots, I know there is going to be an encore, so lets not waste anymore time and do it!” The crowd was energized more than ever before and as he asked for silence, he wanted to play the intimate and haunting “Branding Iron,” it was then into the uncensored version of Woody Gutherie’s alternative national anthem, “This Land is Your Land,” that brought the show again, to new heights. Just before kicking into the final song of the night, Morello invited everyone on stage to join him as the Nightwatchman and sing his latest song and title track off his new album, World Wide Rebel Songs. In a moment that the people of City Winery and the crowd will never forget, it was a poignant way to close the concert – with all of the voices singing in unison, it showed the power of a union. Morello will be on tour all fall and I only encourage you to see him, you will leave his shows inspired and enlightened, he is a one man revolution and one man wrecking ball.