Public Image Ltd Review
PiL front man John Lydon is famous for singing in the Sex Pistols, but he’s also known for hosting a television show about insects and, of course, becoming the face of Country Life Butter. But don’t fear, punk rockers – our Johnny didn’t sell out. Apparently it was all in aid of Public Image Ltd’s revival in 2009. After seventeen years out of the game PiL are performing and recording again. What a treat to have such an influential band play two nights at the Concorde2.
John Lydon has built a reputation for controversy and is still as rotten as ever. The fifty-six year old spits and snots onto the stage all through the set and tests the crowd with his insinuating remarks. Lydon takes crude English humour to a bitter new level and the crowd simply love it. During wildly extended versions of tracks like ‘Warrior’ where melody dominates and the vocals back off, Lydon looks awkward dancing with his gurney face and strange moves. The explicit lyrical repetition in ‘This Is Not A Love Song’ and ‘Death Disco’ that pushed boundaries in the 80s is now a little more like dated ranting. Needless to say we adore John Lydon no matter what; he has become an iconic figure as well as a singer.
Although it’s not the classic Jah Wobble/Keith Levene outing, the current Public Image line up includes past members Bruce Smith, Lu Edmonds and Lydon, joined by bassist and multi-instrumentalist Scott Firth. PiL’s three muscians create a well-defined sound using their instruments in a variety of ways. For PiL fans it’s not unusual to see Smith using a highly customised kit layering acoustic beats with electric rhythms, like on the 1981 single ‘Flowers Of Romance’.
Drums have a dominant presence within the band. PiL make music to capture a feeling or mood rather than send out a message. Loud noises mingled into a state of feeling, lined with anarchic vocal repetition. This stylised 80s sound is maintained in new material like ‘Lollipop Opera’ and ‘Reggie Song’. Both tracks are from ‘This is PiL’ (2012) their first studio release in twenty years.
PiL songs – many tonight topping 10 minutes – are structured into sections (part 1, part 2, part 3) instead of the usual verse, chorus, verse. The outcome is an extraordinarily intense fusion of experimental rock, dub reggae and post-punk. In a way, they kind of sound like The Prodigy before The Prodigy. However you describe PiL they are forever original and their live show is totally unique.
Concorde2, Thursday 16th Aug 2012
Words by John Mclean
Photos by James Kendall