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Friday, 30 July 2010

PiL ABC Glasgow (26/7/10)

Johnny Rotten and John Lydon are the two sides of the one coin. A modern day Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. One of them (Rotten) is cartoon like in his sneeringly pre-emptive scatter gun approach to communicating and appears to have a chip on his shoulder that Atlas would shy away from carrying.
In short he can come across as a bit of a dick.
The other (Lydon) is verbose, articulate, confident and manages to do a damn good job of keeping his natural acerbic nature under wraps.
In short. Not a dick.
Thankfully it is Lydon that I was there to see, not Rotten, and as Lydon he didn't disappoint.

Everything and everyone was waiting in anticipation and readiness for the night to begin.
The backdrop with the iconic Public Image Limited logo hungs behind the drum like a badge of honour, but apart from that, the bands instruments and PA equipment, the stage was bare. It was all business on the night. No room for theatrics, just a pure and unadulterated performance from an iconic band.
With no supports bands to contend with and no introduction required the band walked on stage without any fanfare and slipped into the groove of “this is not a love song” and in an instant everything clicked into place.
Communication was initially none existent as Lydon rolled out his patented thousand yard stare that cuts through the audience like a laser.
The sound was literally stunning.
The venue had invested in some unique quadrophonic sound system that seemed tailor made to assist a band like PiL in getting their sound across.
It didn't dip and dive depending on where you were standing. It didn't ebb and flow above your head, but instead it was solidly smooth across the whole venue.
The other benefit of it was that the quality allowed it to be powerful without any reliance on dancing on the edge of distortion levels of volume.
It strikes me that this is how PiL should be heard. That the technology has finally caught up with the band and this probably surpasses anything they could have done the first time around.
As someone who dips into PiL occasionally rather than diving headlong into their back catalogue I found that the live arena is where this music is made for.
Poptones, a song that never struck me as being that special, took on a whole new persona and extended out and filled the room with its rhythmic beat well to the fore.
The band individually showed themselves to be up to tackling anything that was thrown at them. Their fluidity was a joy to behold.
Lu Edmonds in particular appeared to immerse himself in the music using all sorts of stringed instruments to weave a glorious aural tapestry for us all.
Apart from his guitars he also played a banjo, but unlike anyone I have ever seen playing one before. Eschewing finger picking he instead attacks it like a lead guitar, the same could be said for some sort of mandolin/lute instrument that he had.
None of them sounded like they traditionally should and it is a wonder in itself that he can take them and use then in the post punk rock context that he did.
A few songs in and Lydon decided to communicate with the crowd a bit. It was no real surprise that his first utterances would be a gripe about something.
This time the monitors.
I have a suspicion that he just needs to do this before he completely relaxes. It's an inbuilt reflex, a compulsion, his default setting.
Get a verbal jab in before anyone else does.
Proof of this may be in his retraction a little later when he admitted they were fine and assumed responsibility of maybe not hearing them as he should.
A little later he commented on the Glasgow crowd being a bit strange although he didn't expand on that.
Without a doubt they/we were in comparison to a Pistols crowd, but the odd rag tag mismatch of eclectic people there to see PiL seem to have been exactly what the music deserved.
If you can't pigeon hole PiL, then should you be able to neatly slip their audience into a box?
There was of course some uber-punks hanging around who could have fallen off the cover of an Exploited album, but by mid set many seemed restless and unsure of what they were doing there.
On stage isn't the uncle Johnny that they know and love. Unsurprisingly in the Lydon persona he is neatly side stepping their preconcieved ideas just as he always has done.
It just seems to be taking decades for the penny to drop for some.

By the time they eased out of Chant and into Religion as the show closer they were into that zone that all bands strive to reach.
Perfection had been sought and found it seemed. Musical nirvana.
Religion itself is the song that I had been waiting for all evening and every expectation I had were met and then surpassed.
Words would fail to do justice to how tight the band and how on top of everything John Lydon was at this point.
For me it was the crowning glory of an already magnificent set. Unfortunately as it reached it's end I was at the door and fleeing the building to catch a train.
The lucky people left behind had another few songs to enjoy as part of the encore, but unlike the crowd at Winterland I didn't feel like I had been cheated at all.
Another excellent show that rounded of July very nicely indeed.


  1. very good, review. never much a fan of p.i.l. always thought of them as a wanky pop group. but its reviews like this that make you want to give a band another shot at your old ear drums.

  2. I was saying just before the gig that personally I think that over the course of all their albums that they have probably enough for one good one, but it all sounds completely different live.

    I've got Strawberry Blondes and Undertones interviewtranscribe and they will be up soon, and a review from the Wickerman festival.

    How are you doing anyway?

  3. Im doing well brother, clean and somewhat happy. just waiting on my check to get here today, its already a day late. so im a lil aggravated. love to see your new interviews soon. i got 2 new comps im posting. Nekro Radio vol 1 and 2, vol 2 is all rare tracks or should i say versions from the john peel show. so check it out brother if you like that sort of stuff.

  4. Thanks gobshyte. Fire away and use it if you want. I'm not that precious about much that I do. It's for sharing really.

  5. I'm curious as to who the real John Lydon is?
    Do you think he has a different persona for all he does? or does he switch it on depending on the crowd in front of him? I've always had him down as intelligent and they do say 'smart' folk have the built in ability to not change..but suit the people they are around.
    Anyway..sounds like a great night all in all.

  6. After reading his book I came to the conclusion that he carries a very large chip on his shoulder.
    I can see why though. He missed loads of school and looked different from others as a kids. So people would make snap judgments and it must have driven him nuts as he is a clever fella.
    Result being he over compensates with the clever put downs. It's a defence mechanism.
    He's jumping in there before anyone else does.
    Then later on in life he is the driving force lyrically for the Pistols and Malcolm goes on for years and years and years snatching at the credit.
    What a prick.
    To Lydon I reckon that was like being pushed into a supporting role and once again not getting the credit for his intelligence.
    The problem is that at this point in his life he should be able to get over it and relax.
    We all know he's talented. We all know he's clever, but for some reason he can't move on and accept that he doesn't have to keep pushing the point.
    I'm just rattling that off the top of my head though.
    Pop psychology 101.

  7. Fine review.

    John has taken more shit than most and even had his name stolen from him. He is very protective about himself and rightly so. Yes his Rotten side is more an act these days but come on give the man a break he's in his 50's. People expecting him to act like he is 20 and in his Sex pistols heydays is just foolish. PiL a very underrated band though it's true they (he) has made some poor records but in a live set up and with this great band he now has they sound unbelievably good. A song like "Tie Me To The Length Of That" sounded nothing special on record but now played by these guys sounds amazing.

    Will the real John Lydon please stand up? I think he always has and remained true to himself, these days there is a lot more humour in the man and he's more at ease with himself. If the only two records I had ever heard in my life were "Never Mind The Bollocks" and "Metal Box" it would be enough.

    Get out and see PiL if you can they won't disappoint.

    Final in a fade.....

  8. Thanks Marky. The man is an enigma, but I can't help thinking that in his rush to get a defensive point across he is preempting a comment that maybe wasn't coming.
    In this way he becomes his own worst enemy.
    PiL definitely will not disappoint, unless you are wanting to see and hear the Rotten persona.