(My review of Thursday night's Public Enemy show at the Trocodero. More photos from CP photog Michael T. Regan can be found here)
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I mean, sure, it was closing in on 1 a.m., and everybody who hit the Troc for Thursday night’s Artists for Heat show
had already been on site for a good four, five hours.
Having watched Stanley Clarke
(my man kills the bass), Everlast
(Whitey Ford’s still pimp; come April, you’ll hear him work out a new version of Folsom Prison Blues), and The Roots
(the legendary crew was on fire, and Black Thought may well be the tightest emcee mine eyes have seen and mine ears have ever heard), it truly was a long night. But a long night for a good cause. And a long night that held the promise of seeing the band that changed this South Jersey white boy’s life back in the day.
So why the hell was the room three-quarters empty by the time Chuck D, Flava Flav, Professor Griff, two S1Ws, a live band (a Roots-born strategy that served them well this night) and DJ Lord finally got around to the anthem that means as much today as it did when Spike Lee was doing his thing right? The simple answer would be that even though the power must still be fought, Flav has totally, entirely lost his mind. Mid-set, he held court while introducing everybody on stage. At least, that’s what I think he was doing. And this is only because Griff had to remind him that the one guy Flav said was from Alabama was actually from Memphis, and the other one he said was from New York was from New Mexico. But let’s not get ahead of myself.
Public Enemy is still the baddest band on earth. They always have been. They always will be. Never ones to shy away from controversy — as if I needed to say that — Chuck and Flav led a couple finger-in-the-air chants of, “Fuck George Bush. Fuck Dick Cheney. Fuck Condoleeza.” (Added note: Chuck also made sure to send "peace to Hugo Chavez.) They also tore up the letter Chuck got from the government the other day
. The one that said they were suckers, the one he didn’t give a damn about. When they did, I was half expecting the National Guard to bust in the joint and face the pain at the end of the S1W’s swords. But that never happened.
Instead, this is what did:
Night of the Living Baseheads.
Welcome to the Terrordome.
Bring the Noise.
Shut ‘Em Down.
Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos.
Prophets of Rage.
A new track (I think it’s Just Like That)
Can’t Truss It.
911’s a Joke. (Especially in this town.)
Public Enemy #1.
Don’t Believe the Hype.
Fight the Power (with Clarke on stage).
And, the Isley’s Fight the Power I and II.
There was more. Seriously. So much more, in fact, that I bought my first concert shirt since around 87, when I snagged an INXS counterfeit outside the Spectrum at my first concert.
Holding true to the activism vibe, Chuck and Flav continually pointed out why we were here: The 3Kingdom’s jawn to help people get the money to heat their homes. It was a tailormade event for PE, really. And both men shouted out Philly as having been a big part of their careers and lives.
For his part, Flav brought Lady B
up on stage, recalling the time in 87 or 88 when the band travelled south and got their first substantial non-NYC airplay/love. He recalls it as being the first time he’d ever been outside of New York.
Then, Chuck did what Chuck does: Make the serious points and inspire you to want to take injustice by the neck and smack it across the face till it does the right thing. And this night, it was about the murder rate. He said hearing that we were leading the homicide world back broke his “fuckin’” heart. “I always counted on Philly to keep New York and Baltimore in check,” said Chuck, who still sounds like Chuck of old and can still put the energy out there. When he stormed the stage, it was like the revolution was starting with a quickness. Calling us out on an inferiority complex, he said we, “need to get that New York shit out of our souls.” That’s when they went into "Can’t Truss It."
Make no mistake about it: Time has taken some of the edge off. There were a few long breaks during the set, during which Flav made sure to let us know when "Flavor of Love III
" would be debuting. (At least that’s what he was doing when he wasn’t throwing his mic in the air and trying to catch it.) But, fear not: “I don’t care how much TV I do. I will always be Public Enemy,” he said. While he kept talking, though, he heard a couple scattered boos in the audience. “You’re fucking with Flava Flav? Go fuck yourself.”
Well let me say this: I’d never fuck with Flava Flav. Because even if the times have changed, and the kids these days just don’t understand the historical significance of the men on stage last night, I haven’t.
That’s why I stuck around even after the roadies started packing up the stage, even while Flav kept on talking to the 100-some people still there at 1:03 a.m. Dude just can’t help but bask in the adoration and love. He was back in his element, and thank God for that. (Or maybe thank Red Bull, since that what he was handed at night’s end). My point? Seeing PE in full effect boyyeeeeee, man, it’s a dream come true. And I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that now more than ever, even when they first barged onto the scene and made America hear about things they’d long ignored, we need them.
Word to Herb, you can truss that.