Live Reviews

Public Enemy – “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back” – Live

The only thing Public Enemy ever sold out on was ticket sales – Raps biggest outfit, performing Raps biggest album of all time at possibly one of the most famous venues in the world was always a “publicists dream”.

Before we get to the main event, a strong, and unique set of opening acts took the stage – I totally missed AntiPop Consortium due to a 2 for 1 deal on beers at Plan-B round the corner and of course, the skatepark needed checking out (almost done!) – but made it to the Academy as Kool Keith/Dr.Octagon took to the stage – with masked DJ and hype man en tow. Keiths a veteran of the stage and is unfazed by the 5000 strong predominately white crowd and succeeds in making it feel like a small tight venue. Dropping classics like Blue Flowers and the weirdly hooked Half-shark-alligator-half-man – the crowd know his work and flaunts himself with ease on the stage. Finishing with an UltraMagnetic classic “Poppa Large” which has more than stood the test of time, the question is, who are these two DJ’s setting up after their set…? (Z-Ed – and secondly, was Kool Keith actually rapping or was he miming tonight? The debate goes on…)

The Bombsquad produced and created Public Enemy’s immense soundscape. The Shocklee brothers will be found in the production credits of many of the late 80s/90s hard hitting hiphop tunes from the likes of 3rd Base, RunDMC and Ice Cube’s Amerikkkas Most Wanted album. So given solo-time to shine warming up for PE was something to be more than curious about, I was half expecting a DJ of their instrumentals of their famed tracks – what I got was a total opposite! These guys have been busy in the lab cooking up the heaviest dub-step style beats of all time, Brixton was literally shaken to the core. Definitely worth linking up their constantly advertised on the night myspace page to see some true progression from the classic production team.

When I was in my early teens, two things really got on my nerves, one was clancking my truck on fakie rocks, the other was the S1Ws, the militant (looking) dance troupe that shadow PEs live shows – tonight they look a little lost as Professor Griff was denied an exit visa from America, I don’t see that a necessarily bad thing – the last time I saw him on stage he was spitting all kinds of hate, but tonight we are just left with the dance act, which is pretty embarrassing with people around me laughing! The main ingredient that is missing is the original DJ, Terminator X, who retired from the group back in the mid 90’s – but DJ Lord is more than capable on the 1s and 2s and is flanked with a couple of guitarists and a drummer too, so the stage is set, but “they aint rocked us yet”

The concept of the night is to celebrate 20 years of the platinum plus “Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” album. So the show blasts off with a patented “Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Boyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy” which means PE is definitely about to explode on stage. Bring Tha Noise hits hard, and instantly gets to fists pumping in the air, leading in to a full mixup of the track listing. A tribute to the former DJ, Terminator X on the Edge of Panic gets everyone firmly back to the first time the rocked the album, and Chuck D and Flavor Flav are as fresh on stage as the first time I saw them almost 20 years ago, its like time on Flavor’s clock had stopped, he is 50 years old this year and though merely a hype man on the albums, but comes in to his own “Cold Lamping” on the live show, and although looking like Souljah Boys dad, he still has more than enough energy for this crowd.

Chuck D, ever the ‘hard rhymer’ is on form, in shape and hungry, and eagerly rips in to Don’t Believe the Hype like it’s fresh out of the studio, although some of the politics have changed, they stick to the original messages and still cant resist having random digs at the Iraq “war” efforts and American Penal system between tracks. The angst hasn’t faded a bit, which is just as well as Prophets of Rage would be devoid of meaning without it.

After working through the album in style, they just won’t let the show end and the venue has a midnight curfew – Chucks determined to go the distance and they go off-topic with a medley of standout cuts from the rest of the albums, standouts being Welcome to the Terrordome, Flavors 911s a Joke and notably Public Enemy #1 which ensures nobody is leaving for the last tube!

What a show, totally exhausting and nobody could feel let down after such a strong performance. I wouldn’t say PE ever topped this album, but one thing is for sure they still have enough fight in the tank to perform at the highest level and are around to inspire yet another generation of artists. Undoubtedly the album, and the movement that is Public Enemy has certainly more than stood the test of time, this was epic.

Phil Procter