Tom Morello peacefully occupies Vancouver

Morello played the Vogue Theatre on Oct. 19

By Jacob Zinn

The 47-year-old liberty rocker Tom Morello, also known as the Nightwatchman, brought Occupy Vancouver protestors — “friends on the guest list” — to the historic venue for a frenzied live show that brought awareness to local and global issues. JACOB ZINN / THE RUNNER

He might perform under the moniker of the Nightwatchman, but it was Tom Morello who got the Vogue Theatre chanting and raising fists in unison on Wednesday night.

The 47-year-old liberty rocker brought Occupy Vancouver protestors–“friends on the guest list”–to the historic venue for a frenzied live show that brought awareness to local and global issues.

Opening for the Nightwatchman was Thousands, an acoustic duo from Seattle. Their fast, capoed finger-picking was practiced, but their lyrics resembled high school creative writing poetry.

Morello kicked out the jams with “One Man Revolution”, the title track of his 2007 debut solo record, and riled up the Vancouver audience with strumming fury, bluesy harmonica and an impassioned voice of the people.

It wasn’t long before they ignored security’s pleas for reserved seating and bum-rushed the stage. Morello then played the rather fitting “It Begins Tonight” to a chorus of stomping and clapping.

“One thing I like about the slogan, ‘We are the 99 per cent,’” he said between songs, “is the odds are 99 to one.”

He came with new material from his 2011 album, World Wide Rebel Songs, including the Spanish guitar-styled “The Dogs of Tijuana”. Then he busted out his Arm the Homeless guitar for “Save the Hammer for the Man” and made it scream two electric solos with his trademark whammying style.

Carl Restivo of the Freedom Fighters Orchestra (Morello’s backing band for larger performances) joined him for the blue-collar rally cry of “Union Town” and “Black Spartacus Heart Attack Machine”, a “feverish love ode” to Morello’s new acoustic guitar of the same name.

However, when several manic pixie girls tried to get onstage, Morello stopped mid-song to assure them that later on in the show, they would be allowed up to party.

Two of the same girls unsuccessfully tried to jump onstage again, but were met by security and humorous remarks. “I thought we had a deal,” Morello said with a grin.

He followed the disruption with the first-ever live performance of “The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse”. Then he dedicated “No One Left” to the international victims of the Iraq War and “Saint Isabelle” to his late aunt, both of which got strong crowd responses.

He moved into a slower, unplugged version of Rage Against the Machine’s “Guerrilla Radio” and a high-voltage rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad” with an over-under tapping solo and also picked a few notes with his teeth.

“I’m not going to go offstage and pretend that I might not come back,” he said before the encore.

Morello convinced the raucous crowd to stand in silence during the soft, heartfelt “The Garden of Gethsemane”, then had them on their feet for “The Road I Must Travel”.

As promised, he let fans onstage for the final song (which emptied half of the orchestra section) during a sing-along of “World Wide Rebel Songs”.

Some fans might have expected more Rage songs like “Bulls on Parade” or “Killing in the Name”, but they ought to keep their fingers crossed for a Rage Against the Machine tour in 2012.

What better place than here. What better time than now.