Public Enemy are pretty iconic, there’s no doubting that, but can they still pull it off live more than 20-years after their last big selling album – the answer is simply yes, but more on that later.
As I arrive in the ABC, Glasgow hip-hop duo, turned full band tonight, Hector Bizerk are just polishing off their set, I was unaware of their slot tonight but Louie seems to be revelling in playing to a more seasoned, and pretty big, audience.
Hector Bizerk have been flying high recently after last year’s album being shortlisted for the SAY Award, and deservedly so, as Louie’s distinct Glasgow accent complimented by Audrey’s drums allow for a full band set up to take place, something lacking from a lot of Scottish hip-hop.
It’s safe to say that most people attending a Public Enemy show would quickly brush off the idea of Scottish hip-hop, it’s an acquired taste to say the least, the accent doesn’t quite roll off the tongue and references generally feel a little too close to home, but with Hector it’s different somehow, the live band aspect gives them that extra dimension and Louie’s flag waving stage presence will surely have won many round this evening.
Then it’s the turn of the legends, they were recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after all, as Flavor Flav cockily points out fairly early on, but as the crowd get worked prior to Public Enemy’s emergence and DJ Lord does his stuff the atmosphere starts to build.
The crowd is an odd mix, Public Enemy seem to appeal to vast spectrum of people, from hip-hop fans to metal heads to old ravers, but in general the crowd is over an older generation many of whom may well have been at that legendary ‘80s Barrowlands gig Chuck D mentions every time they play Glasgow.
If you’ve seen these guys before you’re not going to be in for anything particularly different, but that’s not to say it’s not impressive, The S1W group strut their military stuff before Chuck arrives on stage introducing his crew before blasting into the opening track, there’s something missing though, but we don’t have to wait long before Flavor joins them onstage and injects some of the absurd into D’s politically inspired raps.
For a couple of guys in their mid-50s they move about the stage in a chaotic fashion, whipping the crowd into a frenzy with classic material from their late-80/early-90s catalogue; they do take a fair few pauses, but that’s no bad thing, when Chuck D addresses the crowd it’s always encouraging, he’s a man who knows his stuff and he quips “don’t let them take your money, or your oil, or your water” when talking about the upcoming referendum he draws himself that bit closer to Glasgow’s heart.
Flavor Flav’s audience anticipation seems a touch more forced however, shouting out for innocents in wars and world situations where previously he had talked about his TV appearances is a little odd, but not quite as odd as his totally bizarre track dedicated to Michael Jackson, which undoubtedly comes from on a good place doesn’t cut it lyrically compared to his group’s output.
Still, he’s got a few moments of comedy up his sleeve, like shouting “where’s my clock at?” back at an audience member before pulling it out his shirt, and he’s a more than capable foil to Chuck D’s booming baritone and the band’s intoxicating beats and deep funk sound, Flav even gives us bass and drum solos during the set and throws himself through the audience at one point, proving he’s not just that guy with the clock.
Still D is the epicentre of Public Enemy, he’s an ever powerful presence and his words are strong as ever some 26 years since It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back launched them into the public eye, it’s certainly the most revolutionary and rock ‘n’ roll as hip-hip gets and as long as these guys keep delivering shows like this the people will keep coming.
Words: Iain Dawson