Gig review: Public Enemy at O2 Academy Leeds

Public Enemy at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Public Enemy at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

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OK, so Terminator X may have retired to run an ostrich farm, Professor Griff may no longer be marshalling the so-called Security of the First World and there’s even an Apple Mac beside the DJ’s decks these days.

But tonight Public Enemy more than justify their introduction as “one of the best rock bands in the world”.

An epic two-hour set by the ‘Rolling Stones of rap’ begins as it means to go on with a forceful My Uzi Weighs a Ton, at the end of which Chuck D reflects that “it’s been a while since we played that” and dedicates the song to Leeds.

It may be, as Chuck reminds us, the eve of his 54th birthday, but he still seems to possess the energy of a man half his age as he bounds around the stage with Flavor Flav to the vintage Rebel Without a Pause.

Flavor is a loquacious presence, telling the audience how he’d like to thank them “for all these years supporting us – without you there would be no Public Enemy”, full of pride that the band has been finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and dedicating his part of the show to “the innocent children and women of Ukraine, Gaza, Israel, the 200-plus girls abducted in Nigeria” and the victims of MH17 and the Air Algerie flight that crashed in Mali.

He’s soon joshing with the crowd before producing his famous clock hung around his neck and launching into his best-known lead vocal, 911 is a Joke.

More greatest hits ensue with Welcome to the Terrordome, Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos and Can’t Truss It, the audience is enouraged to raise a middle finger to J Edgar Hoover (“and John Wayne”) and Bring The Noise duly brings the whole house alive.

“This ain’t no hologram s***,” Chuck reminds us. “This is the real thing.”

During Don’t Believe the Hype a young boy is brought on stage to deliver the song’s killer line and meaty versions of He Got Game and Public Enemy No1 follow.

But it’s Fight The Power that’s perhaps evening’s highlight, culminating in a repeated homage to James Brown’s Soul Power from which its crucial sample came.

Maybe we could live without Flavor’s tribute song to Michael Jackson, heartfelt as it undoubtedly is (he even has a picture on his T-shirt to prove he once met the King of Pop), and a mass invitation to women in the house to join him on stage to Shake Your Booty, but there’s no denying that after 28 years Public Enemy can still put on an exhilarating show.

Gig date: July 31

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