Public Image Limited
The Button Factory, Dublin
29 July 2012ÃÂ
Public Image Limited put in an outstanding performance at Dublin’s The Button Factory leaving our reviewer Ray Burke with some difficult decisions about who to catch at Rebellion next week.ÃÂ
Public Image Limted played their first ever gig here in Dublin lastÃÂ year, now just over a year later and they’re back!
Since they lastÃÂ played they have released the excellent new album ‘This is Pil’, andÃÂ have toured extensively. The Button Factory is a smaller venue thanÃÂ the recently shut Tripod, so there is plenty of excitement inÃÂ the crowd prior to the gig, everyone likes being in close proximity toÃÂ the band, especially this band, and its legendary front man.
The band enter the stage,and before launching into ‘Deeper Water’ fromÃÂ the new album, John tells us he isn’t in the best form. In fact, heÃÂ has “the shits”, and has just had ” Immodium for tea”. He apologisesÃÂ for his “rusty” voice, the first of several times through the night.
No need, his voice is in superb form, and if he isn’t feeling well, itÃÂ doesn’t infringe on what’s a mesmerizing performance.
‘Deeper Water’ is followed by an excellent ‘This is Not A Love Song’,ÃÂ in the middle of which he greets us again, “Hello Boys and Girls…areÃÂ you rrrrreaaaaaaaaaaaaady”, his voice is ethereal and raw, andÃÂ ‘Albatross’ next sounds monumental, and there is another new one fromÃÂ ‘This Is Pil’, the track about “Finsbury park boy” the brilliantÃÂ ‘Reggie Song’.
John is full of banter, and despite his “diarrhoea” which he refers toÃÂ several times, “I’ve finished all my shit pills!”, he seems to be inÃÂ fantastic spirits, feeding off the euphoria of the crowd, and reallyÃÂ enjoying himself. He tells us it’s great to play for us, and that heÃÂ knew that tonight was going to be a good one. You can view this asÃÂ Spinal Tapish pandering to the crowd, but it’s the same honesty thatÃÂ allowed him to be forthcoming about tonight’s aliment, and we knowÃÂ it’s not bulshit.
He is positively emotional when he tells us “itsÃÂ great to be among you people”, and the feeling is mutual.
It’s not just John who is putting on anÃÂ astonishingÃÂ performance, theÃÂ band sound invigorating too, Lu Edmonds on guitar, Scott Firth onÃÂ Bass, and Bruce Smith on Drums. From 1989’s ‘9’ we are treated toÃÂ ‘Disappointed’, ‘Warrior’ and ‘USLS1’, all three tracks written by theÃÂ members of Pil on stage, except for Firth. He is newest to the fold,ÃÂ and ‘This is Pil’ was his debut for the band. In Autumn they will haveÃÂ been playing together for three years since reforming, and in thatÃÂ time they have been getting better,and better, and have now reachedÃÂ zenith like brilliance.
If the sound is poor, we are quick to comment,ÃÂ so let us give credit when it is due, the sound on Sunday night wasÃÂ exceptional. It’s integral that it would be, to allow for Firth’s bassÃÂ to rumble and pulsate through the hall, and to facilitate longestÃÂ serving member Edmund’s guitar to achieve that hypnotic sound as itÃÂ brings us in and out of the strangest places, and former Pop GroupÃÂ member Smith’s drums, who keeps it all in time perfectly.
Then there is John, the mastery and strength of his voice is astonishing, there’sÃÂ little it can’t do, and he makes sure of that, pushing at theÃÂ boundaries and limitations of the human voice until it no longerÃÂ resembles anything human. The audience are captivated by it, totallyÃÂ attentive, hanging on every perfectly pitched note, Lydon demands it.
John spits out the lyrics to the prophetic ‘Religion’, it is allÃÂ foreboding brilliance, and 34 years later the lyrics sound moreÃÂ relevant than ever. ‘Death Disco’ is overwhelming, and ‘Flower ofÃÂ Romance’ is elaborately mutated and staggering, almost four times theÃÂ length it appears on the album of the same name.
Every track clocks inÃÂ around the same ten minute mark, and they are thoroughly inventive inÃÂ their delivery. The tracks in their original state are just theÃÂ template, the performance is about innovation, and having seen them several times before I doubt they ever playÃÂ a song the same way twice.
They play an amazing ‘Bags’ from ‘Album’ÃÂ that morphs into a beefy ‘Chant’ from Metal Box. It is followed byÃÂ ‘This is Pil’s’ ‘Out of the Woods’, and it’s incredible, but then theÃÂ whole set has been flawless.
I decide to go right up to the top for the last few songs, This isÃÂ Pil’s ‘One Drop’, the atmosphere is euphoric, and I curse my need toÃÂ scribble little notes while watching, I should have been here allÃÂ night. ‘One Drop’ is followed by what’s probably their best known songÃÂ among non-followers, and the second track played tonight from 1986’sÃÂ ‘Happy’, with ‘Rise’ you can feel the energy building to a crescendo,ÃÂ the crowd are ecstatic.
It’s not a highlight, because no one moment inÃÂ this execution can be defined as one, but the audience roaring “AngerÃÂ is an energy” in unison with Mr Lydon has the hair on the back of myÃÂ neck shooting right up.
They finish with with John’s LeftfieldÃÂ collaboration ‘Open Up’, and Scott Firth’s vibrating bass is intenseÃÂ and throbbing, it’s hard to believe he once toured as the Spice GirlsÃÂ bassist! Of course we would love more, but it’s over, and we are leftÃÂ exhilarated, and rejoicing what has been a spectacular show.
They play Rebellion‘s main stage on Saturday night, and I had plannedÃÂ to see the Only Ones on a different stage, because I’ve seen Pil threeÃÂ times in the last 13 months. That’s going to be an impossible task.
Gig wise, this was the highlight of the year, a truly outstandingÃÂ performance.
All words by Ray Burke. You can read more from Ray on LTW here.