Public Enemy at the Commodore Ballroom

Chuck D with Public Enemy at the Garrick Theatre, Winnipeg, May 21 2010. Ailsa Dyson photo

Chuck D with Public Enemy at the Garrick Theatre, Winnipeg, May 21 2010. Ailsa Dyson photo

Review – Public Enemy at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Dec. 22 2013

– by Zoë Christmas

On Sunday night, Public Enemy knocked out a packed Commodore Ballroom during a nearly two-hour set. In the past year, P.E. have released two albums and have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After 26 years, the crew is still giving next-level performances, grooving old style hip hop beats and pushing strong, anti-political messages in their lyrics.

Opening the show was Vancouver’s Kyprios, who warmed up the audience with his solo work as well as covers of classic tracks by Dr. Dre, Biggie, Beastie Boys and Dead Prez, among others. Moments before P.E. went on stage, a member of their entourage, Brother Drew, hyped the crowd with an anti-hate message to ensure that we would not get too rambunctious or angry. (In fact, it was one of the most polite crowds I’ve ever seen. Come to think of it, the door staff didn’t even frisk.)

Shortly after 10 p.m., on came DJ Lord, two SW1 clad in head-to-toe military and Public Enemy’s live band – Mike Faulkner on drums, Davy D on bass and Khari Wynn on guitar – and Chuck D, bellowing out one of the group’s more recent tracks, “Get Up Stand Up.” Apparently, Chuck D’s voice and stamina have not changed at all in his two-and-a-half decade career. During the set, he constantly ran between stage left and right, threw his mic in the air and caught it between his verses, and maintained a consistent level of vocal power.

After a song or two of Chuck D by himself, Flavor Flav came on stage to a gleeful reception and the group went into “Bring the Noise”. To build up his hype, Flav kept his clock chain secretly underneath his shirt for the first while, but eventually revealed the iconic necklace, his gold-plated teeth and crazy little dreads to the delight of the audience. While Flav’s classic part in Public Enemy has always been the role of the hype man, he is clearly an incredible musician. Apart from scaling the speakers and blowing kisses to audience members, he expertly played the bass guitar and drums for a few songs, and kept up with Chuck D’s energy.

The two-hour performance seamlessly shifted between the group’s songs spanning from the ’80s to the ’10s, including “Don’t Believe The Hype” (1988), “Shut Em Down” (1991), “I Shall Not Be Moved” (2012) and of course, “Fight The Power” (1989).

After consistently creating music for the past 26 years, Public Enemy’s distinct hip-hop style – classic breaks, catchy samples and old-school call-and-response – hasn’t changed. Yet their intelligent, confrontational and politically-charged lyrics remain relevant. Definitely not past their prime, Chuck D and Flavor Flav are sure to impress for many more years to come.

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