Public Image Limited
The Button Factory, Dublin
29 July 2012 

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. 

Public Image Limted played their first ever gig here in Dublin last year, now just over a year later and they’re back!

Since they last played they have released the excellent new album ‘This is Pil’, and have toured extensively. The Button Factory is a smaller venue than the recently shut Tripod, so there is plenty of excitement in the crowd prior to the gig, everyone likes being in close proximity to the band, especially this band, and its legendary front man.

The band enter the stage,and before launching into ‘Deeper Water’ from the new album, John tells us he isn’t in the best form. In fact, he has “the shits”, and has just had ” Immodium for tea”. He apologises 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, it doesn’t infringe on what’s a mesmerizing performance.

‘Deeper Water’ is followed by an excellent ‘This is Not A Love Song’, in the middle of which he greets us again, “Hello Boys and Girls…are you rrrrreaaaaaaaaaaaaady”, his voice is ethereal and raw, and ‘Albatross’ next sounds monumental, and there is another new one from ‘This Is Pil’, the track about “Finsbury park boy” the brilliant ‘Reggie Song’.

John is full of banter, and despite his “diarrhoea” which he refers to several times, “I’ve finished all my shit pills!”, he seems to be in fantastic spirits, feeding off the euphoria of the crowd, and really enjoying himself. He tells us it’s great to play for us, and that he knew that tonight was going to be a good one. You can view this as Spinal Tapish pandering to the crowd, but it’s the same honesty that allowed him to be forthcoming about tonight’s aliment, and we know it’s not bulshit.

He is positively emotional when he tells us “its great to be among you people”, and the feeling is mutual.

It’s not just John who is putting on an astonishing performance, the band sound invigorating too, Lu Edmonds on guitar, Scott Firth on Bass, and Bruce Smith on Drums. From 1989’s ‘9’ we are treated to ‘Disappointed’, ‘Warrior’ and ‘USLS1’, all three tracks written by the members of Pil on stage, except for Firth. He is newest to the fold, and ‘This is Pil’ was his debut for the band. In Autumn they will have been playing together for three years since reforming, and in that time they have been getting better,and better, and have now reached zenith like brilliance.

If the sound is poor, we are quick to comment, so let us give credit when it is due, the sound on Sunday night was exceptional. It’s integral that it would be, to allow for Firth’s bass to rumble and pulsate through the hall, and to facilitate longest serving member Edmund’s guitar to achieve that hypnotic sound as it brings us in and out of the strangest places, and former Pop Group 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’s little it can’t do, and he makes sure of that, pushing at the boundaries and limitations of the human voice until it no longer resembles anything human. The audience are captivated by it, totally attentive, hanging on every perfectly pitched note, Lydon demands it.

John spits out the lyrics to the prophetic ‘Religion’, it is all foreboding brilliance, and 34 years later the lyrics sound more relevant than ever. ‘Death Disco’ is overwhelming, and ‘Flower of Romance’ is elaborately mutated and staggering, almost four times the length it appears on the album of the same name.

Every track clocks in around the same ten minute mark, and they are thoroughly inventive in their delivery. The tracks in their original state are just the template, the performance is about innovation, and having seen them several times before I doubt they ever play a song the same way twice.

They play an amazing ‘Bags’ from ‘Album’ that morphs into a beefy ‘Chant’ from Metal Box. It is followed by ‘This is Pil’s’ ‘Out of the Woods’, and it’s incredible, but then the whole set has been flawless.

I decide to go right up to the top for the last few songs, This is Pil’s ‘One Drop’, the atmosphere is euphoric, and I curse my need to scribble little notes while watching, I should have been here all night. ‘One Drop’ is followed by what’s probably their best known song among non-followers, and the second track played tonight from 1986’s ‘Happy’, with ‘Rise’ you can feel the energy building to a crescendo, the crowd are ecstatic.

It’s not a highlight, because no one moment in this execution can be defined as one, but the audience roaring “Anger is an energy” in unison with Mr Lydon has the hair on the back of my neck shooting right up.

They finish with with John’s Leftfield collaboration ‘Open Up’, and Scott Firth’s vibrating bass is intense and throbbing, it’s hard to believe he once toured as the Spice Girls bassist! Of course we would love more, but it’s over, and we are left exhilarated, and rejoicing what has been a spectacular show.

They play Rebellion‘s main stage on Saturday night, and I had planned to see the Only Ones on a different stage, because I’ve seen Pil three 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 outstanding performance.

All words by Ray Burke. You can read more from Ray on LTW here.

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