The 15-year-old me would never have believed that I’d be standing in the photo pit at O2 Ritz 45 years later, waiting for the scrawny, snarling youth I’d just seen perform as the lead singer of The Sex Pistols, amble on stage in his mid-60s, both of us still going!!
But here we both are. Lydon is the epitome of marmite, love him or hate him. Never shy of voicing his opinions, popular or not and no stranger to controversy.
Tonight, his targets are his former band members and Danny Boyle for making the Pistols series for the Disney channel. Again, the 15-year-old me would have found it hard to equate Micky Mouse, with a dramatization of the story one of the most important bands in rock history! Actually, strike that, I even struggle with it now, truth be told.
The crowd have already been well entertained by ex-Fall member, Brix Smith and her new band, by the time Johnny takes centre stage. I’ve been lucky enough to see pretty much every PIL iteration since they started and this current line-up of ex-Mekon Lu Edmonds (Guitar), Bruce Smith (Drums ex-Pop Group) and bassist Scott Firth (ex-Spice Girls – true) is tighter than my waistband.
Johnny has always courted controversy, whether finishing Bill Grundy’s TV career, spilling the beans on Jimmy Saville, selling out doing Country Life adverts or coming out in support of Donald Trump. Those in the crowd playing “Lydon Bingo”, must have been severely disappointed with the lack of banter in the first half of the set as cards remained blank.
This was a pretty mixed set, only 5 songs from the first two albums. Those coming for a live fix of Metal Box would have been severely disappointed, but Chant, Death Disco and Memories are delivered with power and are the 3 most played (live) songs off the 2nd album, according to the music Wiki, Setlist FM.
The place isn’t heaving full but it’s a pretty good turn out for a half term Monday night. John seems to be really enjoying playing live again and his voice remains spot on for pretty much the whole set.
This is their first UK date since September 2018, The Public Image Is Rotten Tour and nearly 4 years to the day since they last played Manchester. 12 of the 17 songs tonight, were on both sets, with the most noticeable omission being Flowers Of Romance. He’s hinted at new material but how long we have to wait is anyone’s guess.
Live, PIL have the ability to blow you away with the sheer volume and ferocity of the rhythm section. These bass amps reach Spinal Tap proportions. Lydon remains one of the most charismatic and influential members of the old guard. He is the Damon Albarn of punk, when measured against some of his peers. At the same time he fosters an almost comic book persona, typified by the presence of his friend Rambo, just off stage to his right, dressed in what looks like a lab coat.
The encore gives him the chance to vent his spleen again at messers Matlock, Jones and Cook before bouncing into Shoom, followed by Open Up andclosed with Rise. Anger is indeed an energy.
Final score PIL 1 – Lydon Bingo 0