Monday, October 05, 2015
Live Review :: Public Image Ltd. :: SBE, London - Oct 2 2015
Public Image Ltd.
Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
October 2 2015
Words: Richard O'Hagan
Photo courtesy of John Kennedy
Everyone knows John Lydon. He was Johnny Rotten, he is Public Image Limited, and above all he is a snarling, eccentric, acerbic curmudgeon of the highest order. It is no surprise, then, when he takes the stage he immediately begins to harangue the audience: “Are you nagging me again?”
Or is he? Why does he then start talking about toilets being blocked? Ah, Johnny’s playing tricks again. The man who once railed against The Man and then happily advertised butter on our televisions is more than happy to open this, a rare London outing for PiL, with a spoken word intro. Not just that, it is the intro to a new song, the excellent ‘Double Trouble’ from new album ‘What The World Needs Now’, which most of the audience haven’t seen before.
That doesn’t matter, of course. The crowd is entirely partisan and nothing Lydon does or says is going to prevent them from having a good time. From those opening words, through a surprisingly muscular version of ‘This Is Not A Love Song’, to a euphoric ‘Warrior’ and the closing ‘Rise’, rarely have so many squat, follically-challenged and overweight men bounced in unison.
If anything, though, this is an unhealthy thing for PiL. Lydon may have mellowed, but he remains the undisputed leader of PiL (for undisputable evidence of both, watch the film that they’ve released of the making of the latest album). And Lydon long ago ditched the two-minute punk songs, in favour of a combination of dub and showmanship. This means that there’s nothing to stop him turning songs such as ‘Religion’ into eleven-minute bass epics, or spinning several other numbers out well beyond their natural length. Which is a shame, because it means that where this should’ve been a triumphal return on the back of a pretty good new record, it becomes a bit of an endurance test for all but the most hardcore fan.