There was excitement in the air Friday night. Public Enemy hasn’t visited this city in 10 years. There was some controversy about this show. First, drastically reduced ticket prices being announced a few weeks after tickets went on sale left some ticket holders feeling cheated. Then, only a couple of days before the event, The Union (the organization promoting the show) placed calls to all ticket holders where an pre-recorded message informed would-be concert goers that the venue changed. The show was initially scheduled to be held at the Burton Cummings theater, but was moved to the Garrick at the last minute. The Garrick is essentially right next to the Burton, but the venue is much smaller. One couldn’t help but wonder if ticket stales had been stagnant.

But on Friday, May 21, 2010 none of that seemed to matter anymore. We would at least finally get to see the hip hop group that participated in establishing the presence of hip hop in america in the mid-late 80s. And thanks to the fact that it was moved there, it was all rush (seating). I just headed right for the stage and made my camp right there for the rest of the night. I wasn’t gonna be caught behind anyone when PE took the stage. First, though, there were the opening acts.

There was no real announcement ahead of time about who the acts would be. Back in 2000 it was Michie Mee and Mood Ruff. In 2010 it was local hip hop group Pip Skid (who?) and Wisconsin’s own Rapper Juicebox. Skid wasn’t too bad, and clearly had passion. But the real entertainment between the 2 opening acts hit when Juicebox performed. I think he’s the craziest rapper I’ve ever seen, as during the opening song he fell backward after jumping up on stage and nearly knocked over the DJ table. There were several times he jumped (read: fell) into the crowd, mounted a dude’s shoulders and got carried through the crowd, grabbed and hugged me, grabbed my head, and by the end was shirtless and on his knees on the stage. He also kicked a cup of beer that someone had thoughtlessly left on stage (after being told not to) and most of it landed on me and a couple of other people next to me. But it was the entertainment. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that performance,
and he’s not a terrible rapper.

But, of course, we were all waiting for Public Enemy. And we waited…and waited. Given how hot it was due to the amount of people packed like sardines into the Garrick, it seemed unbearable at times. There was even a guy who was dying for PE to take the stage just so he could light up the joint he’d been holding in his mouth. By the time they got on stage, he had already given up and just gone to smoke up. It’s sad, really, because PE was in as fine form as ever. The set consisted of a mashup of the “Fear of a Black Planet” songlist and the “It Takes a Nation of Millions…” songlist.
One thing was clearly evident to me, and likely everyone else in the crowd: Chuck D, Flavor Flav, and the whole group love their fans. There is a humility in a group like Public Enemy that I’m not sure I’ve seen from professional performers before. I’m talking about everything from Chuck D to stop next to me in mid-song and take a picture with me, to Flavor Flav grabbing water bottles and literally pouring water into people’s mouths (including me). They just wanted their fans to have the best time that they could, and to convey their message.

By the end of the 2 hour performance, it was clear that this group, although they identify themselves as the Rolling Stones of Rap music, has definitely not lost steam. They still have tons of energy and love to offer the people who want to listen and watch. Fans came away severely hot and dehydrated but definitely not wanting for more. PE offered us everything they had, and then some. They truly held nothing back. I think some performers could stand to learn something from them, but maybe we all could. As they played through songs like 911 is a joke, Can’t Truss It, Can’t Do Nuttin’ For You Man, or Anti Nigga Machine, something common stood out during every song performed. That there is only one race, the human race, and we’re all together on this planet so there’s no need for hostility or hatred. They have issues with those in established power, but that’s nothing new and they often have very positive ideas to contribute.

Much like the last time PE was here, I won’t forget this for a very long time.

[flickr style=”border:none; padding:4px; border:1px solid #BDBDBD;”]set:72157624119716790[/flickr]

Image IMG_7931 Originally uploaded by philosophoclese