Public Enemy @ the Boulder TheaterBy Jamie White | September 4th, 2008 | No Comments »
Inimitable rapper Flava Flav (left) and Chuck D of Public Enemy brought the noise to the Boulder Theater on Aug. 27. Photo from Virgin Media.
I was not all that excited about the DNC coming to town. Sure, it’s an exciting time for Americans, with redemption just two months and half a nation’s votes away, but the city was overrun with media and street mimes and the chaos in Capitol Hill was almost unbearable. So, away from the city we drove the night before our nation’s first half-white president gave a rousing Democratic nomination acceptance speech at Mile High stadium.
Behind us, fully armored bus-loads of SWAT teams were drooling adrenaline while kids in bandanas were being circled and bear-maced. Ahead of us was Boulder, some topical video game where the panhandlers have puppies and background characters act out strange rituals like stopping in a park to carefully re-swaddle a bundle of incense.
But we have to move forward. Public Enemy had announced a free show at the Boulder Theater to coincide with the DNC. And how exciting that Chuck D, one of modern pop music’s most politically charged voices — who in the ‘90s reminded us the civil rights movement still needs to move — was playing a free first-come, first-served concert to support our nation’s first half-black president.
“You’re #409, she’s #410.”
“How many get in?”
“500 through this door…”
We just made it; 500 drinkers on our side, and 500 hopped-up, stoned-and-drunk underage kids on the other. We bellied up close to the stage and waded through several painful opening acts to make sure we had a good spot for P.E., who finally take the stage at 11:45 p.m.
The wait is worth it. Chuck D blasted onto the stage announcing the band was going to play its second studio album, 1988’s “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” in its entirety. Hot damn! We were in for it now: “Bring the Noise,” “Don’t Believe the Hype,” “She Watch Channel Zero?!,” “Night of the Living Baseheads,” chased with “911 Is a Joke” and “Fight the Power.” A true treat for any tried-and-true Public Enemy fan.
And Chuck D killed it. His lyrics are more poignant today than when they were written 20 years ago, and he delivered them with an energy that shows just how exciting this election is. And Flava Flav is still a snickering, gold-toothed turtle without a shell who balances out the sincerity of Chuck D’s calls for reform with his childlike naivete: “You know what’s wrong with John McCain? He wants to mess with my beer… and he wants to mess with my Newports.”
The show was all it should have been. Professor Griff led the S1W’s through a series of mock military dance moves. Flava Flav bounced around stage with his wall-clock necklace and red, white and blue-lit sunglasses. And Chuck D showed us again how to balance that fine line between politically motivated calls for actual social change and pop sensibilities.
But on that Aug. 27 night, his message was wasted on upper class hippies in biker shorts and dread locked dead-heads who only came to see that guy from “Flavor of Love,” and maybe spot New York.
The powers that be were 27 miles southeast of there holed up in the Pepsi Center listening to Bill Clinton speak. And we were in Boulder listening to Chuck D bring the noise, but there was no one there to bum rush the show.
Jme White is a Denver-based writer and musician and regular Reverb contributor.