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Public Enemy at Limelight, Belfast review: Others put on an act, this is the real thing

By Michael Conaghan

While most rock bands flirt with anti-establishment rhetoric until the time they manage to set up their first tax avoidance scheme, Public Enemy have been confrontational from the get-go and remain that way today.

How could it be otherwise?

Hip-hop in its primal form did not set out to gently persuade; the themes of disenfranchisement and injustice that artists like Gil Scott-Heron and The Poets mined with a certain degree of elegance in the Seventies required a bit more anger in the age of Reaganomics.

Last night's build-up had something of the church fête about it: free gifts, merchandising, breakdancing competitions, well even a revolutionary's got to make the overheads.

But when Public Enemy emerged onstage fresh from a Gaza protest at the BBC around the corner, complete with mannequin-like heavies in military fatigues, it was clear that this was church militant.

Chuck D and Flavor Flav assumed the position, the first as master of ceremonies launching a coruscating Get Up Stand Up, the other emoting, dedicating the next number to pretty much anyone who had experienced anything bad over the past few days.

It's clear the two have a Page/Plant, Townshend/Daltrey style understanding, at its best in the dynamic vocal interplay of Welcome To The Terrordrome, augmented by an outbreak of thrilling live guitar, which showed us why Public Enemy have such a following among rock bands.

Believe the hype.

Four stars

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