As listeners, we tend to remember our favorite artists as they exist in our best memories of them. That’s sort of the idea behind the Kings of the Mic Tour, which brought four founding fathers of hip-hop — De La Soul, Ice Cube, Public Enemy, and LL Cool J — to the Bank of America Pavilion Wednesday night.
De La Soul’s brief opening set was highlighted by “Me Myself and I,” with the infectious groove borrowed from Funkadelic’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep” proving just as effective at getting bodies moving 25 years later.
Ice Cube seemed to take extra pleasure in reminding the audience that he wasn’t always best known as the Coors Light pitchman. He stormed through career-making verses from N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” and “Gangsta Gangsta” before turning to solo hits like “Jackin’ for Beats” and “Steady Mobbin’.” “Boston didn’t pay to hear that new Ice Cube,” he proclaimed without bitterness at one point, and then made good on his claim by easing off stage with his biggest hit, “It Was a Good Day.”
Backed by a drummer, guitarist, DJ, and militant backup dancers the S1Ws, Public Enemy navigated through abbreviated versions of “Rebel Without a Pause,” “Bring the Noise,” “Don’t Believe the Hype,” and “Shut ’Em Down.” Their set lacked nothing in terms of energy, but the live musicians added little besides an excuse for Flava Flav to jump behind the drum set for an impromptu jam session during an uneven set that seemed to fly by on its own momentum before closing with “Fight the Power.”
Perhaps taking Ice Cube’s cue, LL avoided cuts from his newly released album “Authentic” and stuck to material from his rugged early days: “Mama Said Knock You Out,” “I’m Bad,” and the heavy Rick Rubin drums of “I Can’t Live Without My Radio,” with ’90s hits like “Doin It” and “4,3,2,1” sprinkled in. Ladies got their chance to love Cool J as he tossed out roses during “Luv U Better” and “I Need Love,” but the fact that he ended the show with “Rock the Bells,” shirt still on and fitted cap backward, speaks volumes.