Back in 2014 a handful of lucky fans had the privilege of witnessing a one off show from rap legends Public Enemy, backed by a full live band, S1W, in the intimate setting of West London’s Metropolis Studios, in the very room where Amy Winehouse recorded Back to Black. Tickets were trading for somewhere in the region of $7000 for this exclusive gig and based on this 1h20m soundtrack to the DVD/Blu Ray, it was money very well spent. To put it simply, Public Enemy absolutely kill it.
We are treated to a selection of career spanning tracks from ‘Miuzi Weighs a Ton’, through ‘911 is a Joke’ and “Bring the Noise’ to the surprise hit from the London Paralympics ‘Harder than you Think’; they are all here, barring one or two personal favorites from Muse Sick, so it’s essentially a ‘Best of’ played live in this awe inspiring performance.
Twenty-eight years into their career at the time of recording; “He’s 55, I’m 54, that’s a hundred an’ nine fuckin years”; and Public Enemy are still at the top of their game. Chuck D’s flow is as sharp as ever, his baritone bite on every syllable the perfect foil to the insouciant style of partner in crime Flavor Flav. Not that Flav is found slacking, on the contrary, he works the crowd tirelessly and is a superb counterpoint to Chuck’s relentless attack. There is an almost telepathic understanding between the two, born of nigh on thirty years prowling the stage together, which reflects in their interplay; Flav conducting the small crowd like an excited pied piper while Chuck challenges them to keep pace. It’s a lesson to any performer in how to work a room, whatever its size; there’s only 125 people watching the show but PE are blowing the roof off.
Public Enemy may be old school but everything sounds as fresh as the day it was pressed, hitting the spot time and again. ‘Rebel Without a Pause’ is the first to really get things rocking, with DJ Lord scratching some serious vinyl, before Flavor turns up the heat on ‘911’ and Chuck piles on the pressure on ‘Terrordome’ – you can almost feel the room heaving through the speakers. S1W add a whole new depth and flexibility to PE’s sound, with some serious shredding on ‘Hoovermusic’ and ‘Black Steel’; the house is rocking and the show has barely started. “Real Hip Hop is here!”
Bring the Noise nails it, the rapping urgent and on point. There’s a funky bounce to the vibe on ‘Don’t Believe the Hype’ as Chuck and Flav work it; is that Liam Gallagher in the house? The temperature just keeps on rising as ‘Can’t Truss It’ struts out to some badass beats. Chuck D described ‘Man Plans, God Laughs’ as the most intense Public Enemy record of the century, sorry Mr D but you were way off, Metropolis is destroying it dude. ‘Fight the Power’ actually provides a slight breather after Chuck nails Bring the Noise a’capella. Flav brings it on again for 31 flavours before Shut em Down and the stunning climax that is the uplifting ‘Harder than you Think’, Public Enemy’s biggest UK hit; the horns actually give me goosebumps before some badass guitar rocks the midsection. Chuck D and Flavor Flav then bring the show to an intense close, “Just like that”.
The truly remarkable thing about this record is that the intensity and vibe of the performance comes through loud and clear; it’s rare for a live album to live up to the memory of a great show, but here you have the finest possible document of the Public Enemy live experience imaginable.