Support for this one comes from Sublime Wizardry. A duo of old school emcees from Brighton namely yours truly Native Sun alongside the Remarkable One with Hamburg based producer Merlin – the wizard of the beats. Turntable duties are provided by DJ Shelley Mack, who helped put on plenty of hip hop shows for several years as part of the Knowledge of Self collective and B Boy breaking styles courtesy of Ill Boogs. A great support slot for us, not much more to add than that. A huge thank you to Public Enemy, and peace to the Hamburg fans, Dan and the Naked Ape family who have supported us from day one.
Public Enemy have been playing with a live band (called The Banned) for a while now and this add a great dynamic to their live sets. With T-Bone on drums, musical director Khari Wynn on guitar and old school DJ and producer Davy DMX on bass, along with the great DJ Lord on turntables, they’re the perfect back up for the hard rhymer Mista Chuck. From the moment he emerges onstage and launches into “Public Enemy Number 1”, which still his hard when done live, we’re into a greatest hits package that’s perfectly balanced with newer material. They’ve released two albums this year “Most of my heroes still don’t appear on no stamp” and “The evil empire of everything”, so this isn’t a band content to get by on previous hits and past glories – they’ve still got something to say.
Strolling onto the stage wearing several layers of baggy clothes, Flavor Flav joins Chuck to a huge welcome and proceeds to remove the various items of clothing until that famous clock is revealed. Facing charges for assault against his partner back in the States, he’s lucky that he’s been able to make the trip over. Let’s hope he learns to conducted himself properly in the future but somehow I doubt it. That said, he entertains the crowd throughout the set, playing bass for a while before jumping behind the drum kit for some Flav drum solos. The best hype man and sidekick in hip hop, he easily gets the sold out and hyped up Brighton Dome crowd jumping around and moshing.
Professor Griff isn’t here but Pop Diesel and James Bomb represent the S1Ws, their mute precision as they executed steps a perfect visual accompaniment to the music. Chuck’s brother Eric and a guy called Old Skool are also on either side of the stage hyping up those on the floor and those standing up in the packed balconies, with Old Skool’s brief freestyle halfway through the set getting a great response.
It’s a hyperactive and incredibly energetic show, with Chuck saying that he’s 52 years old and Flav is 53 but that’s no excuse for a weak stage show. He says to perform like this and to stay together for 25 years is “Harder than you think”, and the band launch into their recent hit song, ironically their biggest chart hit in the UK to date despite being five years old. At one point Chuck D takes a sip of water and declares it “the oil of the future” before launching into another frenetic song.
DJ Lord demonstrates his turntable skills by cutting up “Seven nation army” then “Smells like teen spirit” at lightning speeds. The perfect DJ to take over from the retired Terminator X who is now an ostrich farmer, Lord adds old school DJ entertainment (the heart of hip hop) to the P. E. live show.
There’s a relentless pace to the show as they power through the classics. There’s a stagecraft and showmanship worthy of James Brown, one of Chuck D’s heroes and over the course of the set we hear:
- Rebel without a pause
- 911 is a joke
- Welcome to the terrordome
- Don’t believe the hype
- Bring the noise
- Show em what ya got
- Cant truss it
- He got game
- Black is back
- I shall not be moved
- Can’t do nuttin’ for ya man
- Harder than you think
- Prophets of rage
- By the time I get to Arizona
- Shut ’em down
- Fight the power
It’s relentless, effective and thoroughly entertaining – everything you want from a live show regardless of the genre of music. I’ve read previous reviews of Public Enemy that have dismissed them just for being around for 25 years but their moniker of being the Rolling Stones of rap is entirely deserved (Mista Chuck refers to Run DMC as The Beatles of rap). Longevity in hip hop is difficult to achieve, but in these times of austerity and corporations avoiding huge tax bills while the poor are dismissed as welfare cheats, a group like Public Enemy are as vital as they’ve ever been. Here’s to another 25 years of fighting the power.