Public Enemy Spreading Peace, Love & Unity In North Greenwich
There are some things that have been on my to-do list for years, a few of which I thought I had missed the last night bus home for, and would never get to experience. Since the sad loss of so many musical heroes since January of this year, I’ve adopted the attitude to ‘never say never’ to an even greater extent. It’s become my motto to take the chances while they are still there, and whilst I am still physically and mentally capable.
Public Enemy were one of those on my list, having missed them completely in the 80s (to be fair I was only about 5 at the time), and then never having had the opportunity or audacity to take the Public Enemy plunge and get them ticked off.
So when I found they were playing down the road from me in a small club within the 02 (aka the Dome) I decided I just had to be there.
I’ll admit, I was apprehensive, I had no clue what to expect or what the crowd would be like, but this was might have been my first and last chance to see Public Enemy play, so with beating heart and trembling knees I sidled my way into a little gap - center front, barrier’s edge – wedged between some hip-hoppy looking teens. With woolly hats on.
DJ Locky Stylez on the decks gradually got the evening ramped up, as a slow but steady stream of hip-hop heads made their way into the venue. I recognised many more of the tunes than I had expected, and despite the multitude of lyrically questionable phrases (mainly about doing unspeakable things with your bitches and your hoes) I found myself getting quite into the groove, and my initial apprehension gave way to relaxed anticipation. When you haven’t heard certain tunes for years, it’s amazing how many unfiltered memories can suddenly be triggered, and very soon my mind was happily awash.
As the opening set drew to a close, and the excitement levels amongst the now filled floor were reaching fever pitch, it was hard to know what to expect. A lot of the assembled crowd looked very youthful – probably even young enough to have had parents who were born in the eighties.
Hands up, apart from Flavor Flav, and Chuck D, I didn’t really have a clue about who was who before tonight. A mass of mic passing, army-fatigue wearing guys, (including two – ‘band security’ - who were there purely to march in funky unison, salute and hold their fists aloft), whirred back and forth on stage. From the moment Chuck D appeared, it was clear that I needn’t have been concerned, his opening message was to lay down a set of hip-hop rules for the evening, which included definitely no trouble, no fighting, and to get involved and say aiiiight …
As far as songs go, there were all the old classics, ‘Fight the Power’, ‘Don’t Believe the Hype’, ‘Shut ‘em Down’ as well as some moments of incredible tenderness including a moment when Chuck D requested that the lights be switched to purple for a beautiful Prince guitar tribute. Flavor Flav shot out some touching words about a great hero of his, Mohamed Ali, before leading a chant of ‘Ali, Ali, Ali’. Huge smiles and cheers filled the room when Flav then whipped out his alarm clock medallion thing.
Public Enemy’s DJ – DJ Lord – totally blew me away with his mixology, and what he did with Nirvana’s Teen Spirit was out of this world, chopping and slicing, and spinning off in all manner of directions. He definitely made it all look as simple as making a sandwich, and the accolades pouring in on Twitter afterwards were all in agreement that Public Enemy’s DJ is better than most.
What struck me about the night as a whole was that despite the look, the strong political views, and the perceived notion of aggression and anger, the feel of the evening was all about celebrating unity and togetherness. Flavor’s spiel at the close of the night was that Peace + Togetherness = Power. If only everyone could take this simple message on board, the world would be such a happier place.
Photos: Manjit Singh Lidder