Artist: Public EnemyTitle: Manchester UK Live (DVD)Rating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Bill Zimmerman
From Flavor Flav’s wild outfits and crazy antics, to the S1Ws synchronized marches and fake machine guns, Public Enemy was always a group that took pride in delivering a quality stage show. During Manchester UK Live, filmed Oct. 26, 2003, the crew was no longer rap’s most controversial group, Terminator X was gone and the Security of the First World was only two strong and armed with swords, but the rebels without a pause seemed like they didn’t age a bit as they rocked Manchester for the first time since 1987.
Joined by Professor Griff and backed by DJ Lord and a band dubbed PE (Yes, it’s confusing), Chuck D and Flavor ran through most of their classic cuts and gave a high energy show complete with protest chants (F**k George Bush, f**k Tony Blair!), calls for unity among races and one extremely drawn-out “Yeah boyeee!” from Flavor Flav. Chuck kept moving, Flavor was spastic as ever and dripping with sweat and the S1Ws stepped with precision under the lead of Griff who showed off some impressive martial arts moves during one routine.
The backing band was skilled, especially when ripping through “She Watch Channel Zero?!”, but one can’t help but long to hear Public Enemy rap over most of the beats as the Bomb Squad had intended them to sound, and at times the music drowns out the vocals. Another technical gripe is that at times it clearly sounds like Flavor Flav is rapping over a recording.
Public Enemy delivers, but the concert lags when Flavor Flav and Griff took the stage for separate outings while the others rested. In all, it’s a solid performance, but why it was so special that it needed to be preserved on film is unclear, and why did it take nearly three years to be released? And for a DVD of footage that old, you would think the creators had enough time to make sure that the on-screen graphics correctly match every song that was being performed.
The bonus footage on the concert disc includes a tour photo slide show and a discography which is only accurate up to 2003. The best bonus footage is of Public Enemy performing “Can’t Truss It” at a benefit show in Europe. A second disc consists of a tour diary from the Revolverlution tour and a low-quality tour video from the group’s heyday that are mostly boring. The older video only picks up steam at the end when Public Enemy performs at the Apollo in 1988 during a rally for then presidential-hopeful the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
The concert and the few interesting bonuses make Manchester UK Live definitely worth checking out, but with nothing out of the ordinary taking place, it will likely only have replay value for the most hardcore of Public Enemy fans.