COMMODORE BALLROOM, DECEMBER 23, 2013
When you sign up to attend a Public Enemy concert, you know you are not simply going to a show, but rather, an event. You know there are going to be old guys in track suits with clocks, there will be bucket hats worn unironically, there will be the guys wearing puffy jackets and drunk dudes yelling “FUCK THE GOVERNMENT.” With all this being said, it is easy to get lost in the spectacle of the show and forget how radical of a group Public Enemy were, and still are.
The night kicked off with Vancouver rapper Kyprios, who won the Peak Performance Project a few years back. Now, it would be easy to launch zinger-after-zinger against his incredibly perplexing and embarrassing 40-minute set, but I don’t think that would be in the spirit of Public Enemy to trash someone like that. So, instead, I will simply say that Kyprios should probably focus less on the comic-gags that filled his set, and put more focus on rapping.
Between the antics of Kyprios and the fast-growing, eclectic crowd, it was easy to be distracted, but as soon as Public Enemy began, all of this was forgotten. The group took to the stage like fire with a full backing band and from the very start it was obvious this seminal hip-hop group still packs the punch that made it so vital in the first place. While not comprised of all original members, the audience didn’t care, and it was clear who they were there to see. The crowd became elated immediately upon seeing legendary MC Chuck D take stage alongside infamous hype-man Flava Fav and within seconds the crowd had their fists in the air, a sign of solidarity that would last throughout the show.
It should go without saying at this point, but Chuck D will go down in history as one of the genre’s best MCs. The 53-year-old frontman was incredibly on-point, and his energy didn’t falter for a second. While Flava Flav has become something of a self-parody, when it came to his part of the show and his performance of “911 Is A Joke,” he brought the energy and got the Commodore bouncing like there was no tomorrow. The high point of the show was when the band dropped “Bring the Noise.” Chuck D’s first line of the song “Bass! How low can you go?” still hits on you in the chest like a brick and for a brief moment you can imagine how exciting it must have been to hear a song like that back in 1988.
From early on in the night, the crowd boasted people of all ages, races, orientations, styles, and it only became more diverse as the night went on. It was a powerful statement to the staying power of the group and their mission statement of people being more powerful unified than fractioned.
By Joshua Erickson
Photo by Camille Vega