Public Image Limited – live review


PUBLIC IMAGE
53 DEGREES PRESTON
7th JUNE 2010

It’s alright for us oldies to get all misty eyed when old Rotto rolls into town with Public Image but what the fuck does it all mean to a 21st century teenager we wondered? so we asked one, Josh Nicol, to tell us…

“Hello, Preston”¦ or should I say”¦ De-Preston?” sneers the old familiar face on stage. “Anyway”¦ we’ll see.” Wearing a long cream coat and a pair of straight blue jeans, John Lydon certainly looks a lot more conservative now than back in his day, but of course the frontman’s hair is still as bright as it has ever been and he looks out onto the crowd with his trademark piercing glare, everyone in the room was transfixed.

Upon arrival, the pubs outside were packed with old punks but I was surprised to see many people of all ages, despite seeing one old rebel with a walking stick in hand, but I guess that’s going to happen more and more nowadays. I seemed to be the youngest in the room, but that didn’t bother me. As soon as Lydon and co. walked out on stage I think every middle aged man and woman in the room resorted to their youthful state and started bopping and dancing to Scott Firth’s compelling bassline.

To kick it off, it seemed fitting that they would play their first single, Public Image, and the audience watched with attentive eyes. Being a member of the “new generation”, I couldn’t believe I was watching a man with such musical history and culture, a man that kicked off everything, a man who was there from the start and pretty much defined the punk ethos. There’s no doubt about it, his talent has always been his intimidating demeanor and his conveyance of emotion and anger onstage. And on this night, it looked like nothing has changed since the beginning of his successful and eventful career.

Ironically, his more conservative looks contrasted his strong voice throughout the performance “You’ve forgot what I taught you!” he shouted, “You’ve forgot what Uncle Johnny taught you. You’ve voted in a Tory government! We’re fucked!” This invoked screams and shouts of agreement.

A highlight of the show was certainly Religion, in which the audience screamed towards the figurehead with total appreciation for his outspoken lyrics, “THIS IS RELIGION!” the crowd screams. He launches and puts absolutely everything into tracks like “This Is Not a Love Song”, and by now there are middle aged, grey-haired men in the centre of the crowd jumping and smiling with controlled aggression.

Unfortunately, during Memories, an audience member got a little bit over excited and decided to hurl a pint at the leader’s head, much to their regret, after what they were about to receive, “You cunt. You fucking cunt. You dirty fucking cunt!” spits Lydon towards the unfortunate soul. Images of the Bill Grundy interview couldn’t help but go through my head during this moment. After the song finishes he thanks the crowd. “I’d like to thank all you lot,” he smiles, “apart from this cunt!” and points towards the man who threw the pint, isolating him and revealing him to the crowd, “We’re all friends here”¦ and you’re not our friend. But what are friends for? That’s right, forgiveness. So we’re willing to forgive you. Are you sorry?” I can only presume the answer to the question would have been a resounding ”˜yes’. Lydon still has that unbelievably intimidating personality, but works his way round it by reiterating the feeling of companionship amongst the crowd with his enamour and wit, which presents itself as a very valuable personality trait to have.

Finishing the set, I turned round and notice that most of the audience were jumping and dancing as Lydon sang the famous lyrics to Rise “Anger is an energy! Anger is an energy!” leading into and ending with Open Up. I’m wondering if Lydon had looked out onto that crowd with a little change of mind after his comments about “De-Preston”, as the crowd left that building that night with smiles on their faces.

The current PiL line up (Lu Edmonds, Brice Smith, Scott Firth) seem to have a fantastic rhythm section and just pound the beats for a solid two hours and ten minutes of a set, with only a two minute break for a cigarette. I have never seen a band play for that long with such energy, and it surprised me, especially for their age.

John Lydon’s energy is a lot more controlled compared to his early days, but what I can gather is this man has developed. He’s developed into a new breed of frontman. Terribly emotional and totally into his performance, he screamed and wailed into his microphone. As he has said previously, “My body and mind is the Sex Pistols but my heart and soul is PiL.” you can tell he’s totally passionate about every word he speaks. The man has evolved and adapted to the conditions of age and worked around his abilities, using every positive aspect to his advantage. I can’t speak for the past as perhaps I’m too young, but the time for Public Image Limited is still now more than ever.

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16 comments on “Public Image Limited – live review”

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  1. Not a bad review Josh and a pretty accurate account of a great night. Johnny certainly hasn’t lost any of his energy and this was a polished performance from PIL.

  2. I saw PiL at Primavera and was properly blown away. The Sex Pistols at the same venue in 2008 was a proper end of the pier cabaret turn with no sense of threat whatsoever, but PiL were genuinely exciting and dangerous. The noises that the guitarist managed to conjure out of that evil looking mandolin were unearthly and Uncle John was a compelling presence throughout. I read somewhere that this current PiL incarnation is entirely funded by John with no support from a record company so it is very much from his cantankerous old heart – more power to him. Steve Mason (on his excellent ‘Boys Outside’ album last year) complained that his adverts for Country Life were him pissing his legacy away ‘Stress Position’- if they’ve allowed him to put this band and tour together then fair play. Still think Iggy shouldn’t advertise car insurance though……..

  3. Saw them in Manchester in 2009, 2 hour show , it was fantastic.
    Even if you think their recorded output is often dull, as I do, you would enjoy what they do live.

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