The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Public Enemy – Live at Lisner 11/18/09

Written by: Russell Davidson, CC2K Sports Editor

ImageSo what’s that noise? A bird? A plane? No, it’s just legendary hip-hop/rap group Public Enemy heading down the street on the back of a flat-bed truck, belting out their best jams. A drug-induced hallucination, you wonder? No, not this time. This really happened.

It seems PE were in town for a benefit of sorts, bringing attention to youth homelessness, garnering support for this cause. I just wanted to hear the tunes. So the truck pulls up and the boys go inside. Time to see Chuck D., Flavor Flav, the S1W’s, Professor Griff, indeed, just about all of the original dudes from the late 80’s-early 90’s, a time when PE were among the most vital and exciting bands out there. And guess what. They still are.

A tremendous show. These guys are top-notch entertainers. Flav worked the crowd playfully, shaking hands, jumping around, showing the energy of a kid. The S1W’s did their formation-marching bit, totally cool, and the DJ kept the beats coming. Chuck D. is, of course, the greatest rapper that ever lived, his voice just defining that sound. Add a guitar player, a bassist, and a drummer and you’ve got the recipe for a hell of a show. ‘Course, you gotta have the songs, and boy, do they. Chuck worked the back catalogue nicely, dropping bombs like “Welcome to the Terrordome,” “Can’t Truss It,” “Shut Em Down,” “Bring the Noise,” and “911 is a Joke.”  They also broke out some new stuff, all dynamite, keeping things lively and interesting, and had fun changing stuff around, like an acapella version of “By The Time I Get To Arizona,” mixed in with “Ball Of Confusion,” by the Temptations.

Chuck is aware. He mentioned twice how much he loves the Beatles, a brave and knowing admission, considering his genre. The guy just flat-out loves music, all music, and it shows. I got the chills a few times, a dead tip-off that something was connecting with me, that this was special. And when they closed with “Fight The Power,” everyone singing, everyone dancing, you just had to smile, the power and beauty of a collective groove. The guys are on the ball, see ‘em, support ‘em, treasure ‘em.  

Now, there is one complaint. Before PE came on, we were forced to sit through a “documentary” made by a bunch of kids about the free Virgin Music Festival last summer. It was truly awful. There was some tie-in between Virgin/Richard Branson and the cause PE was supporting, which is fine, but then why do we have to sit through an hour-long shaky-cam Virgin commercial because of it? I guess I wouldn’t have minded so much except that it was unwatchable, a how-to guide on how-to NOT make a documentary. Still, we can’t blame PE for that.

The movie over, we all took a deep breath and got ready for Public Enemy. Once they hit the stage, I forgot all about how much I wanted to kick Richard Branson in the nuts, and went with the groove.

PE #1, kids. Miss out on ‘em at your own expense.