The Nightwatchman | 06.26.07 & 06.27.07

Words by: Eamon Foley

The Nightwatchman :: 06.26.07 :: Bowery Ballroom :: New York, NY


Tom Morello - Nightwatchman
Scrawled in bold capital letters on Tom Morello's guitar were the words "Whatever it takes." It's an emphatic statement of intent, and as The Nightwatchman he is focused on spreading his message - one show, one listener at a time.

Anyone who comes to one of his shows expecting a solo Rage Against the Machine jam will be sorely disappointed. The Nightwatchman's sound is far removed from RATM's intensity. Many say his acoustic folk pales in comparison to Rage, and while it might not have the aural impact, there's merit in the argument that his stripped down sound better allows the listener to focus on the message. Whatever your thoughts, you can't fault him for going down a musical route that is almost the total opposite of RATM.

Tonight, in the intimacy of New York's Bowery Ballroom, the music shifted between angry, passionate protest songs and more subtle, almost calming numbers and back again, all sung in Morello's gruff Leonard Cohen-esque voice. His polemical lyrics and onstage rants cover topics such as equality and, euphemistically put, the need for change in certain quarters. "I pray that God himself will come and drown the President if the levees break again," said Morello.


Tom Morello - Nightwatchman
It wasn't all one-way ranting, though. He offset the vitriol of "One Man Revolution" and "Union Song" with some giddy storytelling that had the capacity crowd in stitches. By the end, we all bounced and sang as one as he closed with Woodie Guthrie's "Our Land," a staple Nightwatchman anthem.

I've read it often - and indeed it pisses me off, too – but how many of us do something to stop folks who talk during a gig? I tend to put up with it with a frown and rising anger but Morello inspired us to do something about it. During his mellower tunes, he encouraged us to shut our neighbors up, to not to let them ruin it. The result? At times it was the quietest audience I've ever experienced. The absence of surround sound stuttering allowed for full focus on the performance and words - an experience we should all be able to enjoy, all the time.

The Nightwatchman is doing what he can to spread his message and encourage us to take action. That's no easy task, but when it comes to putting on a good show for his audience it doesn't take much for Tom Morello to deliver.

JamBase | Big Apple
Go See Live Music!


Words by: Andrew Bruss

The Nightwatchman :: 06.27.07 :: T.T. the Bear's Place :: Cambridge, Mass


Tom Morello
For a guy like Tom Morello, guitarist of the now-reunited Rage Against the Machine, performing to a massive crowd of die-hard fans is just another day's work. So, when it was announced that Morello's acoustic folk-rock alias, The Nightwatchman, was going to be playing T.T. Bear's, his Boston-based fans were left with mixed emotions. Followers of the semi-official god of kill-switch riffs were left with a sense of euphoric joy AND a profound sense of confusion. In the months since Audioslave disbanded and Rage began playing select, festival headlining dates, Morello and his Marx-rock comrades have yet to play for an audience shy of 40,000. Given the reality of the guitarist's ticket-selling abilities, the thrill accompanying the news of his small-scale Cambridge date left many folks wondering, "What's a guy like Tom Morello doing at a venue like T.T.'s in the first place?"

Fortunately, after this performance, Morello was kind enough to provide some insight into the rational behind the booking of the tour. Without a hint of reservation, Morello said, "The size of the venue doesn't even matter. It's about the intent of the music, and the connection [made] with the audience."


Tom Morello - Nightwatchman
Beyond the obvious advantages of performing to a small crowd, Morello made it clear that the advantages of performing as the Nightwatchman go well beyond his ability to participate with his audience. In fact, Morello expressed a valued sense of simplicity. "It's more streamline," he said. "I can just pick up my guitar, go anywhere and play any song, at any rally, at any time. A big rock band is more complicated."

Morello closed the Nightwatchman's first U.S. tour in Cambridge, just down the street from the Harvard campus where he earned his degree in political science. Arriving at the venue in a mini-van, Morello was greeted by hundreds of fans who had lined up outside the venue on the hottest day of the year to get a good spot for the show. As the doors opened, the crowd maneuvered to get as close to the stage as possible. T.T. the Bear's Place, a watering hole in Central Square, looks more like a VFW basement where you'd see a local high school punk band rather than a national act.

By the time Morello took the stage, the space up front was packed to the brim, and the crowd had begun overflowing into corners of the club with little or no view of the stage. He approached the mic, holding a guitar, with the words "Whatever it takes" imprinted on the body. Wearing black jeans, a buttoned down shirt, suspenders around his waist and his signature baseball cap, Morello looked more West Virginian coal miner than cultural icon.

As the crowd erupted in a fury of deafening shouts and cheers, Morello greeted the audience, saying, "I'm the Nightwatchman, and this is a one man revolution." On that note, he tore into the appropriately titled "One Man Revolution," which is also the title of the Nightwatchman's sole studio album. Incorporating the deep, gritty vocal tendencies of the late Johnny Cash with the socially progressive message of folk icon Joe Hill, Morello kick-started a set of tunes that allowed him to express himself in a fashion that couldn't have been further removed from his role in Rage.


Tom Morello - Nightwatchman
When manipulating his kill-switch with Rage Against The Machine, Morello has always been seen as the aggressive, Jimmy Page-esque sideman to Zach De La Rocha's furious and charismatic Robert Plant. However, on the acoustic guitar as the Nightwatchman, the show's all about him. In fact, the biggest difference between his role in Rage versus that of the Nightwatchman is the strikingly irrelevant role his guitar playing has in the latter project. As a non-singing member of RATM, Morello was left with his innovative, turntable-sounding guitar solos to leave his mark on his listeners. With the Nightwatchman, it's all about the politically charged vocals and the punked-out, folk-oriented approach he takes to melodically delivering his message. What's even more striking is that with the emphasis on vocals, the instrumental aspect of the Nightwatchman seems like nothing more than a vehicle that allows him to express himself orally. As he sang lyrics about oppressed people across the globe, the anger behind his words demonstrated how this project has provided Morello with a newfound sense of self-expression.

The Nightwatchman moved through an energy-infused take on "House Gone Up In Flames," accompanied by fans singing, cheering and pumping their firsts. He followed with "The Road I Must Travel," which was, by and large, the highlight of the night. The song's chorus, consisting of multiple "na-na-nas," went on for what seemed like an infinite amount of reprisals, with the crowd following him the entire time.

In keeping with the folk tradition of paying homage to one's influences through cover tunes, the Nightwatchman tore through a "censorship free" version of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." Deeper into the set, Morello asked the crowd for silence so he could play what he described as a very personal song. As the audience embraced complete silence, Morello strummed his way through "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night." The tune, originally written as a poem by Alfred Hayes and performed by Joan Baez, is an homage to the wrongfully executed, guitar playing union organizer, who Morello cited in Rolling Stone as being his all-time favorite guitarist.

Following an encore break, Morello picked up his guitar and closed the performance with a somber run through "Until The End." At the close of the song, he held onto the last chord, strumming ferociously while passionately repeating the phrase "never give up, and never give in."

Discussing the show afterwards, he said, "Tonight was honestly the best crowd of the tour. That's not bullshit." When asked what his fans should know about the night's festivities, Morello was quick to respond, "If they're from this area, they should know that their kinsmen did a fantastic job of rocking this joint ferociously."

JamBase | Boston
Go See Live Music!

http://www.nightwatchmanmusic.com/

[Published on: 7/13/07]

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Comments

blazer2576 Fri 7/13/2007 10:22PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great article Andrew. Wish yours was at the top so more people would read it... (EDITOR TAKE NOTE).

I was at that show too and it was by far the best show i've been to this summer. Never have I been in a crowd with so much emotion. The Nightwatchman has cometh, see him live, you wont regret it.

YEM Sun 7/15/2007 05:26PM
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I had the pleasure of seeing the Nightwatchman open up for Ben Harper at Cains ballroom in tulsa. And all I can say is, it was the best show I've seen this summer.
I'll have pic of the ben harper show along with polyphonic spree pic from their cd release show,galactic, JFJO, and the flaming lips posted very soon on kodakgallery.com/velvetblue_studio

D.B.Higdon starstarstarstar Mon 7/16/2007 07:31AM
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D.B.Higdon

When he played Smith's in Atlanta, Springsteen and producer Brendon O'Brien were in attendance. O'Brien produced Morello's album, and he is currently working on Springsteen's. Very sincere performance.

Cleofus Mon 7/16/2007 08:37AM
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Cleofus

i saw him saw him a few years back on the "tell us the truth" tour and was very unimpressed. I thought he really lacked any kind of quality songwriting ability, all the songs sounded like adolescent journals. Maybe he has improved.