by / July 20th, 2010 /

PiL – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

“We’re Public Image LTD, and we don’t need big fanfares”, professes John Lydon, dressed in a rather strange attire of a red waistcoat and baggy flannel trousers, carrying a full bottle of brandy by his side, looking more like an overweight magician in a circus than a man who quite often claims to have changed the face of modern music.

Having reformed in 2009, after a 17 year holiday, PIL are back again on the road, determined to make enough money to make another record in 2011 and although Lydon may be famous to the majority for his nihilistic anthems in the late ’70s with The Sex Pistols, or to others for I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and Butter advertisements, to any that know his music well: PiL is his baby, the band that really matters to him, and as Lu Edmonds strikes them three famous chords and Lydon howls “This Is Not A Love Song”, there is a sense that it’s going to be a night to remember.

Having had such a long absence off the road has certainly given PiL a serious appreciation of playing live again, particularly Lydon, who commands the stage, wobbling around in the most ridiculous way that only he could get away with, spitting his brandy into a black bin and blowing his nose openly the way a footballer might do at half time. True to his punk ethos, Lydon doles out obscenities, before, during, and after every song, telling ‘the fat cunts sitting on their arses to stand up or fuck off and go home’, and when a member of the audience asks for a sip of his brandy, he tells him to ‘stop being such a ponce and put your hand in your pocket and go buy a drink at the bar.’

An hour in and fat balding men are arm in arm with the young 21st century punks, as songs such as ‘Careering’, ‘Public Image’ and ‘Death Disco’, bring back the years in floods of sweat, lager and tears. Never one to shy away from controversy, Lydon spouts from the stage like a man possessed in a lengthy version of ‘Religion’, adding in some colourful live lyrics: “Lets turn the bass up to caress your soul, but watch the priests, they’ll chase your arsehole.” To the end he is defiant: even telling the old aging punks to stop showing off moshing, that everyone is here to enjoy themselves. There are few artists that could openly insult the audience and still leave with a standing ovation, but when you’re Johnny Rotten, you can just about get away with anything.

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