Usually one to recede into a corner in search of optimum dance space, last night I wedged myself front and centre, ready for some good, ole fashioned hip hop moshing. Surprisingly punctual (for US urban artists), Public Enemy materialised on stage, assuming a formation which would be the framework for the performance. DJ and live band up the back, including the cool as cucumber Davy DMX on bass, two military uniformed dancers in the middle, looking tough and occasionally bursting into unison popping and locking moves, and two flak-jacket wearing heavies (part of S1W), looking tough and not bursting into anything except maybe more toughness. Up the front were the ‘stars’ of the show, solid wordsmith Chuck D and wayward, attention-seeking member of the family Flavor Flave (OK so I have my preferences).
After a funky little sound check, Flavor Flave prefaced the show by thanking us all for supporting Public Enemy for 25 years and received a rousing response. He then thanked us for making him the biggest reality TV star ever…or something… and received an appropriately lukewarm response. Roll on the hits.
Public Enemy didn’t disappoint, knocking out the classics for their first ever gig in Ibiza with incredibly tight moves, rhymes and band. Rebel Without A Pause was thrown down early on, followed by some interesting beat-boxing attempts (let’s just say Chuck D ‘aint no Rahzel). The Amnesia crowd took a little while to warm up, generally used to being left to their own devices, with a fist pump required at best… but by the time Bring The Noise came around, heralded by a mean bass solo from Davy DMX, we were a writhing mass of crunk, bouncing and bellowing and generally behaving like the born-again gangsters we were.
A highlight was a face-melting scratch session from Public Enemy’s DJ Lord during which he schooled us all on the possibilities of vinyl, casually ripping Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit into tiny little hip hop pieces, which escalated into a brief but manic turntable session that was a pleasure to witness. Don’t Believe The Hype and Fight the Power were both crowd risers, as was the single I Shall Not Be Moved from their excellently titled new album Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear On No Stamp. But the high point of the night for me was clear - the killer brass section of Harder Than You Think absolutely lifted the roof and generated a really warm sense of joy and community between artists and fans.
Like most of the old guard of hip hop, Public Enemy are all about ‘the message,’ this time going for the motivational rather than political, in keeping with the Ibiza ideology. Rude fingers were thrust in the air in a big, communal F*** You to Racism, then dutifully turned around and doubled for a collective shout-out for Peace. It was an absolute pleasure to see these music legends so clearly still alive and kicking, and if they ever come back to Ibiza you’ll find me front and centre, bouncing with the other sweat-balls.