Concert Review: Public Enemy at House of Blues

Yo, Flav. What time is it?
  • Yo, Flav. What time is it?

My younger self would kick my ass for even thinking about criticizing Public Enemy.

Make no mistake — there were a lot of things to be impressed by as the seminal rap group came to town last night to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their landmark third album, Fear of a Black Planet, in front of an appreciative crowd at House of Blues.

First off, Chuck D still has that voice, an unparalleled instrument of righteousness and purpose. He also made sure to connect personally with the crowd by name-checking a variety of unsung local hip-hop pioneers and commenting repeatedly on LeBron's pending free-agency decision. (Chuck thinks he hasn't earned the right to leave ... yet.)

In theory, it's also impressive that Public Enemy — one of the pioneers of dense, sample-based hip-hop — were also among the first to integrate live instruments into their shows.

But the musicians, while talented, lacked individuality and reduced formerly incendiary, cutting-edge songs like "Welcome to the Terrordome" to somewhat toothless, overly padded remember-this-one? singalongs.

It was also a bit sad to see the former rebels without a pause drag out a show with every Vegas trick short of costume changes instead of simply bringing the noise.

Still, it wasn't bad by any means, and sometimes — like on a slow-burning, bass-led "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" or a fiery take on "Terminator X to the Edge of Panic" — it was flat-out great. —Matthew Wilkening

Were you there? Tell us what you thought of the show.