London, The Forum
They might have been Public Enemy Number 1 fifteen years ago, but today they don’t even make the top fifty most wanted. In hip hop circles, Public Enemy dropped further and further off the radar with every new release after Apocalypse 91 – The Enemy Strikes Back, so it’s no surprise that the Forum’s not even full to half capacity. Seems the kids just don’t care anymore for Chuck D’s rhetoric.
Most of us here don’t care for anything other than the classics, preaching the word to a room full of white, middleclass, 30 something males is like trying to tell a teenage boy if he doesn’t clean his room up, it’s gonna stink worse than his cock. Yeah, whatever. So the numerous, long-winded rants against Bush, Blair and anyone else who has pissed Chuck off recently make for one big yawnathon. As do recent, internet only released cuts like Make Love, Fuck War. In fact, PE’s new material is shit. When once their live shows were one long explosion of hard and fast beats, like some sort of riot on a funk farm, today it is peppered with these slowed down crawls through medoicrity.
Add that to the inclusion of a live band, and you know things are looking bad. Indeed, when they cut away from the hip hop and plumb the depths of rock depravity to give us all a guitar solo that manages to murder Purple Haze (even the worst pub rock band knows not to these days), followed by an interminable bass solo, complete with slap and tickles, you could quite easily be forgiven for tearing your hair out and making a break for the hills.
But that’s only half the story. The other half of the story is made up of some of the fiercest music to ever be spawned that didn’t come from the fret board of a guitar. Behold the power of Welcome To The Terrordome, steel yourself for the aural assualt of Fight The Power, shake that spotty arse to Don’t Believe The Hype. When they come good, Public Enemy show why they are gods, at least in the eyes of the fans here tonight. Classics like these send pulse waves of pleasure over our heads; the stage is like a giant bass bin, you can almost see the sonic boom.
And Public Enemy have, in Flava Flav, the greatest sidekick hip hop has ever known. Imagine if Bez actually had a talent. Now imagine he was black and from New York City and was blessed with a manic hyperactivity and you’re only halfway to the core of Flava. In fact, watching him cavort around the stage like a giant, bouncing banana, you forget that he is also pretty damn handy with the mic, until everyone else fucks off and leaves him to it on the killer 911 Is A Joke. Chuck must recognise that Flav is now the coolest member of the band, since Flava wraps up the evening in true style, blasting the Slayer sampled Channel Zero as the entire PE entourage play at moshing. It’s kinda cute and almost makes up for the whinging when someone throws a plastic beaker onto the stage. “That’s dangerous,” they cry. Oh come on.
Photo by Jeanne Ellenby (stolen off the web as cameras were banned from this show)