A rather nonchalant Mr Lydon, stridently bimbles his way to the front, and a minor eruption occurs in front of him. Amongst the welcoming cheers and raised arms, plastic pint pots are launched skyward and a rain of beer falls on our heads. Seems quite befitting the occasion, and apart from one punter who cops a full pint to the back of the head, no one seems too perturbed, (One does have to question the logic of launching a full pint though? The beer wasn’t that bad!)
Taking position behind his rostrum like stand, Johnny dives head first into the ranting intro to ‘Double Trouble’, lead single from the new album. Immediately followed by ‘Know How’- another new number – it leads some to speculate if we were to be treated to a live rendition of the new album in its entirety. Everything seems a little bit unsure at this stage, and there’s an air of uncertainty about the place. Will we get what we want? We don’t have to wait long for the answer. ‘Disappointed’ followed by ‘Love Song’ soon puts paid to the ‘What The World Needs Now’ recital rumour and by the end of ‘Love Song’ everyone, including the band seems a lot more at ease. In the manner that, I think it’s right to say, we’ve grown to love, Johnny poses the question. – “Do you like my new Himmler?” in reference to his haircut. Hadn’t really noticed before, but now you mention it John… What with the haircut and the posturing behind the podium… I do like them trousers though, and his jackets pretty swish too. There’s little more in the way of banter between songs. This is a good thing. It means the band have little to complain about and are happy to let the music speak for itself. And speak it does Despite initial concerns, by the time we get to ‘Poptones’ any seeds of doubt have been well forgotten. The balance of old songs and new is well measured. For now we’re deep in familiar territory. The plodding, metronomic beats are quite intoxicating, absorbing you further into the performance. ‘Death Disco’ is given the full PiL treatment. Johnny’s on top form, as Edmonds, Smith and Firth set about showcasing their skills to the full. ‘The Body’ and ‘Order of Death’ are craftily worked in to one. ‘Warrior’ is almost anthemic both in execution and reception, and see’s Lu giving his saz another airing. A beautiful sounding instrument, that might be far from its traditional surroundings, but is definitely at home with PiL. Edmonds is a damn fine musician who is an absolute joy to observe, as his fingers skilfully fly up and down the fret boards, reaching places that many ignore and others simply cannot reach. “We were thinking about going home now. For public health reasons.” Claims John, before he sniffs the air with a devilish grin. “What’s that smell? Is it manky marijuana?” Thankfully, they don’t leave. The show continues, and, if anything, builds in intensity, with John encouraging everyone to “…shout at once. It could be mistaken for applause.” Not quite sure what prompted this, other than a lot of people shouting a lot of different things at random intervals ? ‘One Drop’, has a fairly distinct dub reggae feel to it, which, whether intentional or not, gives a healthy nod to the influences behind the genre that PiL helped create. As the song leads out, John works in mini-intros for the band. “I’m John, and I’m from London. Here’s Scott from Liverpool. Bruce from Bristol. And Lu. Ermmm? Where are you from Lu?” – “Welwyn Garden City.”
Drawing the main set to a close, Lydon‘s stand turns pulpit as he preaches ‘Religion’ to his flock. Half way through the sermon, Edmunds gives his fingers a rest and sets about tickling his strings with an illuminated whirligig. No real reason, but it looks like fun, and it sounds swish, so why not. As we reach the crescendo Johnny commands more bass. And then he asks if we want more bass. Firth’s stand up is dialled well beyond 11, but still we demand more, and not until the sub-frequency gets so low that it becomes more physical than audible do we get any respite. Awesome! They weren’t gonna get away without one, and as far as encores go, PiL get it 100% bang on. ‘Public Image’ followed by ‘Rise’. Beat that! As a parting gift, Johnny acknowledges the fans – “You’ve got good hearts. You’re my kind of people – We are Public Image Limited. We will never let your down!” On tonight’s evidence, I’d have to agree. And with a pat of the chest, a raised fist and , get this, around two hours on stage, he turns and leads his band away. Setlist:
The Body/Order of Death
GALLERY: Click on any image to see full screen.
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Latest single ‘Double Trouble’ and the album, ‘What The World Needs Now…’ are available now.