Public Image Ltd – at Club Nokia – Los Angeles, CA
April 13, 2010
A sold out Public Image gig on a Tuesday night could only bring out the weirdest of the weird- the complete freaks and the drooling record nerds, the type of people who have read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy cover to cover four times and the guys who listen to college radio stations at three in the morning. The venue was packed to the gills with'em and seemingly every face was filled with excitement and anticipation. The media spectacle was full-fledged with middle aged creepoid photographers lining up in front of the barrier to catch images of P.i.L.'s first U.S. show in something like eighteen years. There was no opening act and a large banner with the band's logo hung behind the stage.
I am too young to have to make excuses to listen to Public Image. I wasn't born when Johnny Rotten broke tender Punkers' hearts by calling himself John Lydon. As far as I can remember I probably acquired my first P.i.L. records via a friends' older sister around the same time that I bought "Never Mind The Bullocks." Both were weird and cool to me. However I'd say that the majority of people at this show that was all ages in theory were well into their forties and they could all probably remember the controversy. The performance that was about to follow made all qualms seem even more feeble.
After a couple of hours of waiting the lights went dark and the band came onto stage, wasting no more of our time and kicking off with "This Is Not a Love Song." As Lydon would say everything was proper- the band was in perfect sync with each other and their musical robots. Lydon was howling in a way that only he could do- sounding intense and loose but well disciplined. He was in good spirits, smiling and greeting the audience as neighbors, noting that he now lives in L.A.. This was a side of John Lydon that cameras don't capture and that he doesn't show in interviews, but it seemed very genuine. After the third song he did make some contemptuous comments towards the photographers who were trying to get their last pictures in before the press area was cleared, but otherwise this was not a spiteful front man.
The band's first set included some real gems, including "Albatross," "Flowers Of Romance," and "Warrior" which was preceded with some sentiments about Dick Cheney and fake patriotism. Song after song sounded perfect, more lively and engaging than how the songs are delivered on record. Lydon is truly a great vocalist with a distinct voice and an approach that lets the subtleties blend naturally with the over the top snarls and yells. He never misses a note, a beat, a line, a roll of the tongue, or a roar. After playing "Disappointed," Lydon announced that the band was going to have to take an intermission because he was getting old and had to urinate. No subtleties there. He then thanked the audience and sprinted off stage with a fervor.
After just a few minutes Public Image came back and opened their second set with the bass driven "Religion." The scathing lyrics about religious fanatics who kill in the name of their gods couldn't go over even the densest person's head. A few songs later they closed out the set with an amazing take on "Public Image." The band encored with the ridiculously cartoonish "Sun" which gave Mr. Lydon the opportunity to act like the host of some fucked up show for small children. He thanked the audience for singing along and said "You will be rewarded for that" and the band played "Rise," which had the audience dancing and singing along, particularly to the "Anger is an energy" line. The band was apparently pretty amused by this and after the song was done they did a reprise of these lyrics, inviting everyone to sing along again.
The night ended with "Open Up" and after Lydon introduced the band they all exchanged hugs and parted from the stage. In all the band played for about an hour and a half excluding breaks. It had been a great night.
Big Wheel Magazine
More photos of the show can be seen HERE