Public Enemy, 02 ABC, Glasgow
Thursday 08 September 2011
In theory this show was meant to be a celebratory verbatim replay of Public Enemy's classic Fear of a Black Planet album, on the occasion of its 21st anniversary and in the spirit of the Don't Look Back series of concerts.
Yet the seminal hip-hop outfit are eternally unimpressed by convention, it seems. "Our show don't need no fuckin' help," declared rapper and polemical leader Chuck D, youthful at the age of 51 in cut-off combats and canary yellow baseball cap, "you're gonna get the whole kit'n'caboodle." His clock-sporting comedy foil Flavor Flav summed up what was in store: "Make some noise and I guarantee you're gonna get your money's worth."
In the end nobody cared that the show's Fear of a Black Planet segment lasted barely half an hour, or that some tracks were discarded while others appeared only as chorus lines alongside full versions of "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" and "Welcome to the Terrordome". It was merely a pace-setter for an all-action, two-hour set, which featured every seminal song of the band's history in some form or other, backed up by a contingent of live musicians, Security of the First World dancers and the group's decksman DJ Lord.
Unexpectedly for lyricists and musicians who've been around the block a few times, there was a real urgency and excitement from Chuck and Flav. "The world is still a ball of confusion," mourned the former before an incendiary "By the Time I Get to Arizona", having already railed against governments, the wealthy and Rupert Murdoch, although he spoke fondly of what he called a 24-year love affair with Scotland, recalling "sweating it out at the Barrowlands" way back when. That the pair had energy to spare after two hours of jumping and yelling was focused by the fact that Chuck also pulled 10 push-ups as penance for botching the lyric of "War at 33 1/3" and Flav performed "Cold Lampin' with Flavor" while parading a boisterous female fan around on his shoulders.
Highlights were many, including "Bring the Noise", the still-potent bite of "Don't Believe the Hype", "Shut 'Em Down" and "Rebel without a Pause"; the swaggering rock assault of "Black is Back" (a straight reappropriation of AC/DC's "Back in Black"); and the marauding finale of "Fight the Power". Intended here as a blast from another era, the Public Enemy show brings bleeding edge relevance played with the passion of idealistic teenagers.
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