Edinburgh Liquid Rooms
12th June 2016
Mr Lydon and friends on short tour of smaller Scottish venues. Joe Whyte was there for LTW.
It came as something of a surprise to see PiL announcing three Scottish dates (the others were Falkirk and Inverness) in venues that were considerably more intimate than those supporting last album What The World Needs Now (2015) and expectations were pretty high to say the least given the high profile and critical acclaim that the rejigged Public Image Limited have been getting the last few years.
The Liquid Rooms is a great venue; clearly built to suit club nights and the like, it definitely lends itself to sweaty, up-close-and-personal rock and roll. The place is heaving and the balmy weather is turning the place into a sweltering box. There’s no support tonight as there’s an early curfew and with little fuss, the musicians of PiL take the stage to a huge roar. Bruce Smith is like a machine behind the kit as he sets the pulse of Metal Box classic Albatross. I’m reminded of a time several decades ago when Mr Smith helped out a friend and I who, as teenagers, had traveled through to Edina to see Rip, Rig And Panic with no way of getting home. He let us stay with the band and bought us food and was a real laugh-a-minute gentleman.
I digress. As John Lydon takes the stage he is greeted like an old friend. There’s no sign of the cantankerousness that occasionally follows him; John Rambo, his ever-present minder, is stage right and it’s odd to watch his eyes never leaving his charge or scanning the crowd for threats. At one point, at Lydon’s behest, he’s over intervening as the security are apparently heavy-handed with people dancing at the front. Lydon gets involved too, and it’s nice to hear him describe the audience as family. He rarely moves from behind his mic stand; the robot dancing and skanking of old isn’t in evidence. He’s quite the presence, however; it’s not often you see a performer literally holding an audience in the palm of his hand. Lydon manages it whilst retaining some of the aloofness and star quality of a true icon.
Double Trouble from the most recent album is a thunderous beast; Lu Edmonds reminds me of The Bad Seed’s Warren Ellis; he doesn’t as much play guitar as coax a variety of ungodly noises from a bouzouki and other weird and wonderful stringed instruments. Despite being a song about plumbing, Lydon and band turn it into a corporeal, snaking adventure. Scott Firth’s bass pummels through the set, giving the songs that disco-dubby, krautrock atmosphere that is so familiar. This Is Not A Love Song loses the 80’s sheen of the recorded version and takes on an agitated, nagging feel beside those soaring choruses. The rarely played Order Of Death seems to have made a reappearance in recent dates and it joins a lolloping Death Disco as an elongated, elastic trip. PiL are incredibly tight; even though Lydon has a music stand in front of him with the lyrics, they are a driving, hypnotic force of nature tonight.
The full show is here-
Firth switches to a double bass for a tense, caustic Religion which meanders on for a good 15 minutes or so; Lydon does the “turn up the bass, turn up the bass” routine that sees the floor literally shaking with the bottom end emanating from the PA. I should mention the sound engineer; clearly this guy is the fifth member of the band as his clever use of echo and other effects on Lydons voice, not to mention the instruments, gives the show a real otherworldly feel at times. The anthemic Rise is a case in point; the sheer power of PiL is harnessed and the sound is akin to a punch in the guts.
Returning for an encore of I’m Not Satisfied and a truncated Open Up (which segues into Shoom from the last album) is entirely perfect. Lydon clutches his heart with his right hand in salute to the crowd and he’s clearly having the time of his life just now. PiL simply owned Edinburgh tonight. Long may it continue.