Public Enemy

Public Enemy

Variety Playhouse, Atlanta GA • October 13, 1999

The first thing I noticed about this show was the S1Ws… they were out of step. To give background for those who aren’t familiar with Public Enemy, there exist the S1Ws — always male, usually more than two — who provide the dance steps and serious “don’t screw with me” stare during Public Enemy’s sets. Currently armed with samurai swords, only Professor Griff seemed in step, the other two seemed awkward. The last time I saw Public Enemy, the S1Ws were in paramilitary gear and all four were precise with their steps. Or as far as I could tell, sitting in the rafters of the Fox Theatre. That harks back to a show in early 90’s, sharing a bill with Sisters of Mercy.

Now, Public Enemy is on its 40th tour, and they stopped at the Variety Playhouse with a whole list of others — Micronauts, Mass Comm, and El Pus. The energy is still there — maybe a little died down, but it exists — even for their 40th tour. How many can boast such a thing?

Public Enemy’s set spanned their stellar career, with such songs as “Fight The Power,” “Can’t Truss It,” “He Got Game,” “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos,” “911 is a Joke,” and “Can’t Do Nuttin For Ya Man.” In addition, the set was peppered with selections off of the latest, There’s a Poison Goin On , such as “Do You Wanna Go Our Way” and “Crayola.”

In between songs, Chuck D shared his views on everything from urban radio stations and the Internet (you can purchase Poison as a downloadable MP3 file) to branching out and accessing other avenues of information on current events. Specifically, Chuck had spoken about the case of Mumia Abu Jamal, an African American journalist currently on death row in Pennsylvania, and the efforts to get him released. Convicted in 1982 of shooting a Philadelphia policeman during a confrontation with the radical MOVE movement (which Mumia has supported), Mumia’s supporters believe he was given a rigged trial because of his political beliefs.

Overall, the show stood out in the respect that the excitement generated from the stage made its way to the audience, be it through the songs or the issues discussed. Throughout the show, Chuck D and Flavor Flav seemed unstoppable… literally. Both were bundles of energy, bouncing off one another and the audience.

I have to say, the only drawback was the 15 minutes of stage time given to Flavor Flav towards the end of the show. Standing with another guy, who is helping Flavor out on his latest solo project, Flavor Flav explained why his latest release is titled It’s About Time (a project promised years ago, but just now making progress due to such setbacks as finding a label to release it). It was almost embarrassing listening to him explain its late release, joking about the connection between the title and its circumstances. I wished for the rest of the band to come back out and save him and his friend. “Oh, come on,” you say, “its Flavor!” I don’t care who it is, it’s a waste of time watching one guy pleading with another to act as a second banana on some in-joke the audience isn’t in on.

Soon enough, the rest of PE came back out to “Bring The Noize” to wrap the evening up of “record breaking where no record book exists.” You too can check out the Poison at

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