Tom Morello forgot about us.
He thought the show was on Wednesday, missed his initial flight, and nearly didn’t make it to Fort Collins at all. When he finally took the stage at the Lory Student Center Theater, it was nearly an hour and a half after the scheduled 7 p.m.
But if that forgetfulness indicates indifference on his part, it certainly didn’t manifest itself in his performance: through 14 songs, Morello played with remarkably passionate zeal.
That’s a good thing, because his recently released solo debut, “One Man Revolution,” suffered from a distinct lack of excitement. Quite frankly, the simple and uninventive arrangements on the disc made Morello’s foray into acoustic folk-rock embarrassingly dull.
The album was also marred by Tom’s somewhat pompous persona as a righteous crusader of truth and freedom. But on stage, Morello remedied the problem by injecting his performance with levity.
He even made light of his self-serious image: after coughing, he said, “The Nightwatchman is recovering from a little cold.”
Then, following a song in which everyone in the audience had began clapping along, Morello elicited both laughs and cheers when he declared, “That was some rhythmic s***, Colorado!”
After so many years on stage, Tom Morello simply knows how to play to an audience. This was especially evident during the songs themselves. At turns, he banged his head, raised his fist, and even incorporated “Fort Collins” into one of his lyrics.
These gestures pleased the audience, but not as much as his commentary on world issues. Morello’s occasional jabs at President Bush, the G8 summit and censorship drew loud applause and rarely felt jingoistic or out of place.
But for all of his spot-on stage presence and celebrity, Tom still has one little problem: the music just isn’t very good.
His baritone singing voice is a passable at best and the lyrics tend to be trite and heavy-handed (“I stand on my front porch / look up at the sky. / Will my world go black / in the blink of an eye?”).
Add to this surprisingly bland acoustic fretwork and Morello has a recipe for some of the least inspired or inspiring folk music since Bob Dylan’s in the 1980s.
Thankfully, Morello spiced up his set with a couple of covers. His stripped-down reinterpretation of a song he helped write – Rage Against the Machine’s “Guerilla Radio” – was at least adventurous, if clunky.
Then, as the second half of a double-encore, Morello played the Woody Guthrie tune and elementary school standby, “This Land is Your Land.” By the song’s conclusion, he had convinced the entire audience to clap in time, sing along and start jumping up and down.
Truly, in that moment, Tom Morello held the entire LSC Theater in the palm of his hand.
It didn’t go unnoticed. Smiling, Morello said that of all of his college shows, CSU’s was “by far the best audience.” He said that he would do everything possible to return during his next tour.
Let’s hope he doesn’t forget.