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With his signature black and red cap and dark aviator shades mysteriously hiding his eyes, Grammy award-winning musician Tom Morello took the Quad stage at Newport Folk Festival this Sunday afternoon to an anxious and loving crowd. Before Morello even showed his face, the audience cheered just when the stage crew was checking his equipment. While he didn’t deliver his Rage Against the Machine side or Audioslave, Morello did let his Nightwatchman self go loose on the crowd.
Things started off with a quiet song that lulled everyone to a murmur until the absolute last ten seconds. It was then that Morello fiercely slammed his foot down on a green, wooden box by his side. The box, solid and with a microphone inside it, made for loud and almost scary stomps that ended just as quickly as they started, showing everyone he meant business.
Morello then got loud applause when he launched into “One Man Revolution” from the similarly titled 2007 album, busting out his harmonica and rocking his acoustic guitar. For the rest of his set, people cheered ecstatically for his electric guitar songs and covers. It was clear the Newport audience was already in for a special treat from Morello.
“One more song that’s super, super Newport-quiet and then I promise it’s heavy metal anthems for the rest of the set,” Morello said. He asked the crowd to make it happen by using the buddy system. “Whenever your friend or whoever is next to you is yammering or drinking loudly or something, you just go: ‘SH’,” he said, getting a laugh from the crowd. Morello then began “The Garden of Gethsemane” and sure enough, the crowd was quiet enough to hear the echoes of his guitar strings.
“As you heard, this is the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie’s birth. You know what? This is something I wrote with Woody Guthrie… it’s very rare that you stumble upon a love song, so I figured I would let him work this one,” he said before playing “Ease My Revolutionary Mind”.
Before his set even ended, Morello got a standing ovation from the crowd. “It seems to me you guys want another song?” he said with a fist in the air, to which the crowd got even louder. Jackson Browne then joined him onstage for a more than memorable performance of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”. The song is one he learned when in 3rd grade, which cause Morello to tell a long tale. “History is what we do. We can turn it in the direction of the 99%… This land is your land,” he said. And with that, the Newport crowd began a big sing-a-long, yelling with determination, and all seemed right in the world thanks to Morello.
But the evening’s set didn’t end there. Morello then got even rowdier. “I need to know right now that we are in this together. If that’s true, why are we up here and you’re down there?” he asked. “Come on up here, people. Slowly, respinsibly… I take full responsibility for this.” The crowd then proceeded to slowly fill the stage until every inch was taken. Everyone joined together in singing “World Wide Rebel Song” for a moment no one would forget. As security began peeling audience members off the stage, Morello turned and said, “Sing with me, officer.” Unfortunately, the officer did not join in, but they did let a few stragglers stay on the stage with him.
Waving his arms in the air, Morello thanked the crowd repetitively. “Actually, in case I never get asked back here, truly thank you very much!” With that, he exited the stage for good to leave everyone grinning from what they just experienced.