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Public Image Ltd (PiL) at Bristol 02 Academy review

Josiah Hartley headed to see (PiL) Public Image Ltd on the Bristol leg of their current tour.

Ben Smith

Date published: 29th Sep 2015

Image: Public Image Ltd 

Just two nights before this Bristol appearance, Public Image Ltd’s Coventry gig was cancelled due to band leader John Lydon suffering from illness. It was good job then that he made a full recovery in time this show.

Arriving on stage later than scheduled, and in the spirit of punk’s non-conformist attitude, Lydon aka Johnny Rotten and his fellow band mates sauntered on to the stage to a sustained rapturous applause.

The punk icon was dressed in a chef’s uniform that looked as if had been swiped straight out of Marco Pierre White’s kitchen. Whether semi-planned or coincidental, it was the perfect excuse for him to demonstrate his coarse sense of wit - asking the crowd “Who ordered the shit pie then?”

The evening was marked with plenty of cheeky banter of this nature between the charismatic front man and the lively crowd. And it’s just one of the reasons why his legion of devoted fans takes to him so well.

Without further ado, the post-punk veterans launched straight into current single ‘Double Trouble’ - lifted from the new album This Is What The World Needs - released to critical acclaim earlier this month to further solidify their comeback after a 17-year hiatus.

Dipping into their extensive back catalogue, Lydon also opted for more up to date material like ‘One Drop’ which prompted the former Sex Pistol’s vocalist to big up his home town of London and question each of our own true origins.

The responsive audience, which was predominantly made up of middle-aged men and some mixed couples, were fully engrossed from the outset, all whilst bobbing their heads along to the songs in appreciation. And it remained this way throughout the entire show.

A major highlight was the bands performance of 'Death Disco', which was extended into an epic dub style workout, allowing Lydon to enhance his trembling wails through space echo FX and experiment with the songs arrangement.

They also took a similar approach on a mind blowing version of set closer ‘Religion’. Except this time the ever-theatrical Lydon repeatedly barked out “Turn up the bass”. The sound engineers obliged to his demands and gradually cranked up the volume to the extent where you could physically feel the shuddering bass notes triggered by bass player Scott Firth.

We generally idolise our musical heroes and their work, and naturally this extends to the proportion of fans in attendance tonight - who especially worship the grounds that Mr Lydon walks on. 

There was of course an encore, and after a prolonged applause the four-piece return to the stage to treat the raucous crowd to an explosive rendition of fan favourite ‘Public Image’, which created the solitary mosh pit of the night.

Some thirty seven years on and it’s a record that still manages to invoke high levels of adrenaline amidst the rockers who grew up on the music, as it did this evening. 

They sealed the deal with their popular anthem ‘Rise’, which had the enlivened audience roaring back the lyrics word for word. With the crowd at an all-time high by this point, it was an apt song to end a riveting show.

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