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Johnny gets to Heaven...Public Image : interview

Public Image Limited
April 2nd 2012

Johnny gets to Heaven...Public Image :  live review
Johnny gets to Heaven...Public Image : live review

So I was feeling a bit woozy all day, the tickets were only £20 and I’ve got an early start the next day. I think I’ll blow this one put. I give it a couple of hours and I start thinking along the lines of ‘but it’s John Lydon, the butter advert bloke, the man I saw with his mad mates swearing on TV one fateful night in 1976 (I wanted to watch the other side but Jackie Lewis made me watch it. Thanks Jackie).

So I wasn’t expecting much. A few rambling ditties, a perfunctory run through of ‘This is not a love song’, some swearing, and loads old blokes still sporting multi coloured Mohicans like on the postcards you can buy in WH Smiths. How wrong I was is hard to convey. The bass was as you would expect. The Jah Wobble style is easy to copy but hard to keep up for long as its strength is its repetition. Scott Firth on bass understood the rules and kept to the path. Bruce Smith on drums (The Pop Group and The Slits at various times) was mind-blowingly inventive and as tight as any drummer I have ever seen.

Imagine a post-punk Sly and Robbie laying down some of the most infectious and off kilter groves you have ever heard. From the back of Heaven, Lu Edmonds on guitar looked like any other metal head with long hair, but he was somehow managing to add light to the dark soundscapes, screaming death wails one minute and delayed intensity the next. Then he pulled out an 8 string banjo and started to bow it, and I was lost. On top of all that, John Lydon was just amazing.

Tonight he was the finest exponent of bleak opera I have ever heard. His voice has to be heard live to be believed. He has lost none of his range and, if I’m not mistaken, has finally realised that if he takes it seriously, we will return the favour.

Add all of that together, plus tons of the humour that made him infamous, and you have one seriously fine unique noise. The encore if ‘Open Up’ was just amazing, four piece art rock band suddenly transformed into a pumping dance machine.

My overall impression was that Lydon has found/re-found his ‘Doc At The Radar Station’ band. He’s collected a bunch of musicians together who get it. It was about as far removed from punk rock as you can imagine and I suggest you beg, steal or borrow a ticket while they are together. Who knows what he’ll feel like doing next week? Celebrity Masterchef with the Honey Monster?


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  1. I was there last night too and I was literally blown away. The new material has re-ignited this band and they were as tight as you could imagine, the sound was utterly amazing and compelling.

    Lydon too was on the best form I have ever seen him. That voice is so powerful live, you have to be there to truly appreciate it.

    This band ARE the real deal, you should check out while you can. The new stuff too sounds amazingly varied – one minute almost reggae like, the next folky punk with eastern tones. What other band has such rich variety and is able to switch from a bass heavy folk number to ‘bags’ and then ‘chant’ and it feel perfectly natural. Class.

    I think I witnessed a band at its peak last night and all the smiles and talking between the group onstage was great to see. Full marks (and more) to John, Lu, Scott and Bruce – hope to catch you again later in the year.

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