Public Image Ltd (PIL) are one of the most important bands of all time. After leaving the Sex Pistols, frontman John Lydon has his work cut out, after all revolutionising music once is hard enough, surly twice is out of the question?
And yet he’s managed it, with a catalogue that has been carefully crafted over the almost 50 years since the bands inception and experimenting with every genre imaginable.
As the punters entered Manchester’s O2 Ritz they were thrust into an atmosphere of true 70’s punk brilliance. With beautifully deep, heavy dub reggae coming from the PA, and the bands historic logo ominously lit in deep red, centre stage one would be forgiven for thinking they were in the Free Trade Hall circa 1979.
Ex-fall mainstay Brix Smith opened up the show with cuts from her upcoming album, ‘Valley of The Dolls’ as well as a cover of the iconic, ‘Totally Wired’ for good measure.
Before long the iconic PIL, flanked by Lydon’s personal security Rambo in a blisteringly white lab coat, took to the stage kicking straight into the monolithic, ‘Annalisa’. Those in attendance were simply in awe of Lydon as he bellowed down the microphone in his trademark screams, however with a new air of older vulnerability in his stand-offish roar. At the tracks close Lydon ironically quipped, “four years off and it’s fucking showing”, with his voice sounding stronger than ever.
Soon after, ‘Memories’ roared into life with Lydon dancing around the microphone stand to the almost nightmarish, ploughing bass, courtesy of Scott Firth, that mesmerised the crowd in equal parts wonder and fear. As later proven in the outings of, ‘Chant’ and the iconic, ‘Death Disco’, PIL’s, ‘Metal Box’ is still as wonderfully haunting now as when it was first released in 1979.
Lydon even took time to berate, ‘Pistol’ creator and home-town hero Danny Boyle snarling, “Is it true Danny Boyle is from Manchester? What a class traitor that cunt is!” before dedicating, ‘Bags’ to Boyle. The lines, “bloated body like a TV dinner, let the death move in, and let the feast begin” surmising the butchering of the Sex Pistols legacy.
This is not to state that the show didn’t have it’s up-lifting, truly beautiful moments. Far from it such with the rapture that greeted, ‘This Is Not A Love Song’, the track given a rougher edge by guitarist Lou Edmonds, stripping away the big-shoulder pad synth sound that’s synonymous with the track. This didn’t stop the crowd from dancing and shouting their hearts out to the tracks mocking message.
The band soon excited the stage only to return for a three-track encore of, ‘Shoom’, ‘Open Up’ and the almighty, ‘Rise’, the latter being the undoubted high-point of the night. The crowd knew every word and Lydon knew how to make them belt it. The closing moments of a sold-out O2 Ritz screaming the mantra, “anger is an energy” held a deep catharsis and was truly a sight to behold.
Public Image Ltd are still a musical tour de force. You’d be hard pushed to find a band out there today with as much weight and power to their performance, let alone in a band who by all means should be on the legacy circuit. PIL are as real as it gets and their shows are a testament to that. Raw, captivating and unmistakably rotten.