In 1988 Public Enemy released their groundbreaking album It Takes A Nation of Millions To Us Back (Def Jam).
In celebration of the twentieth anniversary of this historic hip-hop album (considered by many to be the greatest hip-hop album ever), Public Enemy did some concerts in Europe as part of the Don't Look Back concert series, playing the entire album.
Don't Look Back is the concert series produced by All Tomorrow's Parties in which established artists perform in concert an album of theirs (generally an agreed-on classic release) from start to finish in its original sequence. Sonic Youth partook in the series when they performed their seminal Daydream Nation and Girls Against Boys did the Don't Look Back series last year when they performed their Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby, for which Johnny Temple of the group was interviewed for the Amoeblog.
For the recent Public Enemy Don't Look Back performances of It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, they did a short series of shows, including stops in Manchester, England and in Dublin, Ireland. Tall Paul Lowe, today's special guest Amoeblogger, attended the group's Dublin, Ireland performance two weeks ago (5/25), which was at the Tripod in the Irish capitol. Paul's report follows, below the track listing to the classic 1988 LP. Note that the photo above and the photos below of Public Enemy in Dublin two weeks ago were all taken by Tall Paul Lowe.
1. Countdown To Armageddon
2. Bring The Noise
3. Don't Believe The Hype
4. Cold Lampin' With Flavor
5. Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic
6. Mind Terrorist
7. Louder Than A Bomb
8. Caught, Can We Get A Witness?
1. Show Em Whatcha Got
2. She Watch Channel Zero?!
3. Night Of The Living Baseheads
4. Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos
5. Security Of The First World
6. Rebel Without A Pause
7. Prophets Of Rage
8. Party For Your Right To Fight
PUBLIC ENEMY LIVE IN DUBLIN @ TRIPOD
by Tall Paul Lowe
First up on stage was Canadian emcee Cadence Weapon and boy, can he rock a show! He's got a lots of energy and the lyrical skills to match, so in no time his impressive verbal assault got the crowd all hyped, in a party mood, and ready to really rock out to PE and the other scheduled act, Bomb Squad. Equally impressive was Cadence Weapon's DJ Weez-L. I was so impressed with their set that I bought both Cadence Weapon albums on sale after the show.
Up next was the Bomb Squad and it was great to see Hank Shocklee and Keith Shocklee live in the flesh. Now, as everyone knows, these are the guys who made the beats for all of Public Enemy’s earlier albums, so they couldn't disappoint, right? Well, not exactly. Although they arrived onstage to a killer reggae intro that had people dancing to its wonderful upbeat groove, it soon turned out they were going to be playing a less crowd-appealing music: a kind of dub-step they called "wobble" music or "dub bass." Keith introduced their overly long set by saying, “This is pioneering music. You will remember it was the Bomb Squad who brought you this underground music in 20 years time.” Maybe so, but, good as the music might be in another setting, its shattering bass plus its repetitiveness can be (and was) very boring in a live gig setting and visibly turned off a lot of those in the house.
Right before all of Public Enemy arrived on stage, member DJ Lord came on and got busy on the turntables to give us a brief taste of his skills. Then, after some technical difficulties, the rest of Public Enemy took to the stage. The burning question on my mind, and on others' I talked to before, was: Could PE 2008 possibly reproduce the raw and gritty sound of this legendary album -- one that has consistently been named the Best Hip-Hop/Rap album of all time? Of course they couldn't, and didn't, but they did a pretty damn good job nonetheless, and put on a really enjoyable show. Besides, before this Don't Look Back series they had never performed all the album cuts in one show.
To a loud applause, PE arrived onstage led by Chuck D and Flavor Flav -- both sounding the same as always, though while Chuck D has gained some weight over the years, Flav appeared even skinnier than before. Professor Griff, who as you know is back with the group these days, wasn't present due to passport/visa problems.
As promised, they worked their magic through every track off It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (in sequence) and it was such a pleasure to hear tracks like “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” (my personal album favorite), “Prophets of Rage," "Party for Your Right to Fight," and “Terminator X to the Edge of Panic."
Chuck introduced the latter by saying that since (former PE DJ) Terminator X is now retired, and his replacement of the past eleven years is DJ Lord, the song would be performed in Terminator's honour. As the track progressed, Lord ably filled Terminator's shoes and wrecked shop on the ones and twos. At the half-way album mark, when they reached the end of the Side A, Chuck and Flav called Hank Shocklee out on stage. Then they dropped a little history of the group, like how they were called the Spectrum City DJ’s before choosing the name Public Enemy. They also shared some insights on the sequencing of It Takes A Nation..., recalling how initially what is Side B was to meant to be Side A. Hank said the reason he changed it was because he wanted the other side to be as hype as the first one.
The concert attracted all ages, from contemporaries of the group to those who would have been just toddlers when It Takes A Nation... was first released-- but all seemed to equally enjoy the show. Of course, in true Chuck D/PE tradition, there were many of the expected fuck Bush and the war in Iraq and Queen ElizaBitch statements, but to be honest, while I may agree with these political views and also think that it’s good to educate and enlighten people, I don’t think it necessary to have to go into such detail. We all read the news and the Internet and know what's happening.
After they finished playing every song off the album, they worked their way through such other PE crowd-pleasers as "Shut Em Down," "Welcome to the Terrordome," "911 is a Joke," "Fight the Power," and the title track to their most recent album, last year's How You Sell Soul To A Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? During the concert Chuck messed up his lyrics on one song and consequently had to drop and do ten push ups. Apparently if anyone messes up their lines in one of the songs they have to do 10 push ups. As far as downloading music, Chuck made it clear that PE were cool with fans doing what they want, telling the Dublin crowd that we could use the photos or video taping we did that night for anything: "Put it up on YouTube, Facebook, or MySpace," he said.
At the very end, Flavor Flav extended his thanks to the crowd and asked people to display the peace sign, put the two fingers together and join in unity and make a fist for power.