After Radiohead's Friday tilt, Lollapalooza's second and third nights offered a choice between two headliners. Saturday I had to decide between Rage Against the Machine and Wilco, and despite my once-obsessive Wilco fan status and the fact that this was a hometown show for those guys, I've seen them like eight times before, and I don't know when I'll get another chance to see Rage, so Rage it was. I was in for quite a ride.

Saturday's killer performance was marred (and often interrupted) by violence. But when the band wasn't stopping to sort through the disarray, it was as phenomenal as ever. Yeah, they're probably not going to sway anybody's politics, and in that way Rage will always be more of a scream into the void than a catalyst for societal upheaval. But boy do they make it fun to be angry!

After Radiohead's Friday tilt, Lollapalooza's second and third nights offered a choice between two headliners. Saturday I had to decide between Rage Against the Machine and Wilco, and despite my once-obsessive Wilco fan status and the fact that this was a hometown show for those guys, I've seen them like eight times before, and I don't know when I'll get another chance to see Rage, so Rage it was. I was in for quite a ride.

Saturday's killer performance was marred (and often interrupted) by violence. But when the band wasn't stopping to sort through the disarray, it was as phenomenal as ever. Yeah, they're probably not going to sway anybody's politics, and in that way Rage will always be more of a scream into the void than a catalyst for societal upheaval. But boy do they make it fun to be angry!

Zack de la Rocha and company exploded out of the gates with a righteous "Testify," a transcendent "Bulls on Parade" and a workmanlike "People of the Sun," but it quickly became clear that the set needed to get a lot less explosive, and quick. People were going nuts, translating the band's aggression into mindless violence raging against nothing in particular, just raging for rage's sake. The expansive area in front of the stage was jam-packed for yards and yards and yards around, full of adrenalized fans who started several of the largest and most violent mosh pits I've ever seen. Thousands more charged forward at every opportunity, crushing the thousands of other fans who had managed to secure spots up front. Fans poured over the front fences by the dozens, looking to escape the chaos.

"Brothers and sisters!" de la Rocha exclaimed, "Listen. You all got to take care of each other." He asked everyone to step back five or 10 paces fair enough and take the intensity level down a notch easier said than done with music this aggressive. After a few minutes, the band started up again with "Bombtrack," but within minutes they had to stop again. The rapper threatened to cut the show short if the crowd didn't get it together. Things finally settled down after that, though de la Rocha had to ask fans to step back a third time after "Guerilla Radio."

It's no surprise why fans were going insane. Rage's catalog is far from perfect, but the band perfected its combination of big, nasty low-end riffs, quirky guitar trickery from Tom Morello and hip-hop infused extreme-left rallying cries from de la Rocha. They rarely break from their formula, so most of their lesser songs sound like variations on a common theme. But the sameness didn't matter Saturday night. Unlike Radiohead the previous night, these guys came with vigor, playing like they wanted nothing more than to headline a major festival.

The main set came to an uncomfortable conclusion during "Wake Up," when thousands of white roughnecks and yuppies cheered de la Rocha's call for disenfranchised minorities to violently overthrow of the government. It was indeed a wake-up call; few of these adoring fans come close to embracing Rage's revolutionary politics, myself included. And yet here we were, pounding our fists to it because it rocks. The experience is a bit weird.

I enjoyed it nonetheless. There are lots of bands out there espousing ideas I don't necessarily agree with, even if they aren't as explicit about it as Rage. Most people can agree that the problems Rage is tackling are worth addressing, they just might not have the same ideas about how to solve them. At least the common bond of anger is there; in the heat of the moment, you can filter out what doesn't sit well. (Though it seems wise to spend some time later considering why it doesn't sit well.) At a rock concert, there's no reason not to rock out. Rage make it harder than most bands to separate art from ideology, but if that's what it takes to get the most out of "Killing in the Name," so be it.