Public Enemy / IN:Motion Festival
Seminal, political and still unbeatable – Public Enemy gave Bristol one hellofa 25th anniversary birthday party last night, as Toaster In The Bath reports
Much great art has unresolved tension, and tonight’s is whether Public Enemy's 'Bez' is going to be there. For Flavor Flav was recently arrested and charged with threatening his partner and her teenage son with knives. American reportage of this event has been vague, so it was uncertain whether he was actually residing in jail – or allowed to tour foreign countries with 80s rap's finest.
Meanwhile, as Terminator X’s successor DJ Lord and the Security of the First World appear, followed closely by a drummer, guitarist, bassist and finally Mr Chuck D himself – who is match fit, incidentally – it seems likely that Flavor is indeed, to use their local vernacular, incarcerated.
Chuck D starts rapping like a shadowboxer, then he introduces... can it be? Yes, it's the Wise to Chuck D's Morecombe, The Lowe to his Tennant, the dummy to every ventriloquists' act, and he is bouncing round the stage like a caffeinated baby kangaroo!
This is Public Enemy’s 25th anniversary tour, and they have their stage show DOWN, with Flav's vivaciousness and Chuck's new-found using-his-mic-as-a-samurai-sword technique.
Flav is very chatty, even between tracks, boasting about his tv reality career (whilst Chuck stands behind, looking down, seemingly pinching the top of his nose) Tellingly, they don't play their classic critique of idiot tv number 'Channel Zero'.
Their new sound is tight, chunky rock added to their trademark old skool sonic assault – and it works surprisingly well, especially when Flavor takes over the drums for a majestic drum solo, and plays the bass (which is, err, less majestic).
The feeling is that they can play rock, a genre ostensibly anathema to their own, because they want to, like Madonna on her last tour, and thankfully a very long way from their contemporary Ice Cube's much maligned Body Count project.
DJ Lord takes to this new sound well, and adds in his solo spot, a turntablist revue of metal including a popular beatific version of 'Teen Spirit'. Public Enemy finish with a version of 'Fight The Power' mashed with the riff from Led Zep's 'Kashmir'.
They are rap royalty, yet tonight chose to rock harder than much of the contemporary Kerrang! set. For this, let alone their quarter-century fight for equal rights, we must salute them!