Public Enemy didn't want to rip you off.
Which may have been part of the problem.
The revolutionary rap act's show Wednesday night at the Rialto Theatre was billed as a rare local appearance by original members Chuck D, Flavor Flav and Professor Griff with a full backing band.
The manifestation, though, was two excellent Public Enemy performances that sandwiched a momentum collapsing and an unsavory sideshow of bad ideas and self-promotion.
Like charging marauders, the group began by ripping through classics like "Bring Tha Noize" and "Shut Em Down."
Chuck D, wearing black Adidas track pants and a sleeveless shirt, commanded the room, stalking the stage, holding the mic with his left hand and jabbing imagined enemies with his right.
Sporting a New York Yankees hat, an oversize yellow T-shirt, a white clock and a gold chain that swung down past his knees, Flav crouched, convulsed, scrunched his face, and bounced around like his veins pumped Red Bull.
"Tuuuuu-sssonnn!" Flav chanted in his raspy voice, "Ari-zzooonnn-naaaa!"
Topics turned to modern politics as Flav and Chuck led the crowd in a call-and-response indictment of the current administration before tearing into "Son of a Bush."
Nodding, dancing and cheering was a mix of around 500 hip-hop heads with backward hats, buttoned-up preppies and dreadlocked hippies of all ages.
Then . . . crash.
Flav stalled the action, the first of at least four forehead-slapping segments, to thank the crowd for the success of his VH1 television show, "Flavor of Love." The gesture felt awkward among the heady-social metaphors and rebellious integrity of the band's catalog.
"Even my reruns was busting all the other shows in the (expletive)," he proclaimed to feigned amusement.
The performance's nose dive began barrel-rolling as pot smoke wafted during half-baked tributes to other historic rap groups, instrumental solos by the live band, a segment by a local teen break-dancing troupe, and watch-checking solo sets by Flav and Griff.
Near the back end of the show's second hour, what was left of the die-hard audience collectively exhaled as Public Enemy reunited onstage again to play hits such as "Don't Believe the Hype," "Fight the Power" and the controversial "By the Time I Get to Arizona" — which slammed the state for its early refusal to establish a Martin Luther King Day.
When 1 a.m. rolled around about a half-hour later, Flav was virtually alone onstage, rambling like a misguided relative during a wedding reception toast, spanning topics including "Flavor of Love" gossip and bringing unity to mankind.
"Did you get your money's worth?" Flav asked a dazed and diminished audience of some 250.
Sure — it's just that no one wanted more.