Mike Atkinson

Public Enemy, Nottingham Rock City, Wednesday May 28

Posted in gigs, Nottingham Post, Rock City by Mike A on May 28, 2008

Here in “Nudding Ham”, we’ve grown used to visiting American acts telling us that we’re a “special audience”. In the case of veteran hip-hoppers Public Enemy, there’s a distinct truth behind the sentiment.

Back in the autumn of 1987, the band played a seminal gig at Rock City, which saw them debuting their classic Bring The Noise to wild — and unexpected — acclaim. Two decades later, the same song opened a set which was largely given over to a full reconstruction of their most celebrated album, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back.

With founder member Professor Griff unable to leave the US due to passport problems, Chuck D and Flavor Flav had more work to do than ever. Although the comforts of middle age might have blunted some of their youthful anger (barring the occasional swipe at Bush and Blair, and even a vicious, unrepeatable crack at “Queen Elizabitch” of which Mohammed Al Fayed would have been proud), their energy levels remained impressively high. Riffing off each other in time-honoured fashion — the preacher and the party animal, the sage and the fool — their delivery was crisp and sharp, hitting every mark with absolute precision.

This being the last night of the tour, the band invited their production team — Hank and Keith Shocklee, aka The Bomb Squad — onto the stage, in order to explain some of the musical thinking behind their groundbreaking masterpiece. Although this broke some of the early momentum, nothing could stop the crowd once Side Two of the album kicked in. (As the Shocklee brothers explained, it was originally conceived as Side One, before a last minute switch was made.)

She Watch Channel Zero got the fists pumping; Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos got us chanting along with its memorable opening lines; and when the delirious squall of Rebel Without A Pausedropped, the venue all but exploded.

The album’s final track dispensed with, the band launched into a lengthy greatest hits set, climaxing with a fierce, galvanising Fight The Power. Nearly two and a half hours after taking to the stage, Flavor Flav had to be virtually dragged off it.


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