For many John Lydon will be forever thought of as Johnny Rotten, maybe understandably so, due to the enduring influence and occasional reappearance of the Sex Pistols. But what is often forgotten is that Public Image Ltd released their first album in 1978, and have been making music for a fair amount of those intervening 37 years. That’s a long time.
There was no mention of his previous ‘life’ at the De La Warr Pavilion on Tuesday evening and quite rightly so, although I suspect many audience members would have loved there to have been.
Public Image Ltd are much more than just John Lydon, something emphasised by the quality of the rest of the band. This is no backing band, these guys have pedigree and that showed. I was especially impressed with the distinctive playing of Lu Edmunds, ex of The Damned, who seemed to change his guitar after every song.
Kicking off with the opening track, ‘Double Trouble’, from new album ‘What The World Needs Now....’, complete with its opening words, “What, you f*cking nagging again?”, P.I.L took us on a journey through their back catalogue during the 90 minute set.
As much as I like them, P.I.L are one of those bands whose songs I often recognise, but can’t always quite put a name to, this wasn’t helped by the complete lack of pre, or back, announcing of what tracks the band were playing.
There were early outings though for ‘This Is Not A Love Song’ and ‘Poptones’, and another stand out song for me was new track ‘Corporate’, complete with its “Murderer” chant, which was taken up with gusto by certain sections of the audience.
The bands much acknowledged dub reggae influence is in evidence on many P.I.L songs, giving some of them a real ‘groove’ and also an anthemic quality at times too. A liberal use of backing tracks helped to fill out some of the songs, to good effect.
One very impressive feature of the night were John Lydon’s vocals. Not having seen the band before I did wonder how they’d be, but I was pleasantly surprised at their strength. There was an almost Operatic quality to those vocals at times.
The man is certainly a very commanding and arresting performer, one who demands your attention at all times. No great surprise there I suppose?
This was a gig that I found myself being more drawn into the longer it lasted, maybe those ‘grooves’ helped?
P.I.L ended their set with a big, sprawling, epic, religious based rant of a song (I've since found out the song is called 'Religion'), during which Lydon exhorted the sound man to “turn up the bass’, which they duly did, to body shaking effect.
The inevitable, and very welcome, encore certainly sent the crowd home happy. Coming back on to treat us to that first ever single, which its distinctive bass line, ‘Public Image’, and closing with ‘Rise’, complete with its “Anger Is An Energy” refrain, was a sure fire recipe for success.
A thoroughly enjoyable gig, but I couldn’t help wondering what any attendees thought who had been drawn there by John Lydon the media personality, the man who sells butter and is interviewed on TV by the likes of Piers Morgan? I did spy a few rather bemused looking punters leaving before the end, more fool them.
I’m not sure what they were expecting, but one of the redeeming features of Lydon, in my opinion anyway, is that he is his own man and one who cares little for what anyone else thinks. Long may that continue.
If anger is indeed an energy, as both the lyrics to ‘Rise’, and the title of John Lydon’s most recent book suggest, then anger isn’t quite as negative an emotion as we’ve been lead to believe, especially if this performance was anything to go.
I don’t think anybody in this audience felt they’d been cheated.
I thought I’d make a quick mention of the support band for the evening, Clowwns.
Hampered by pretty bad sound, something that wasn’t evident during P.I.L’s set, they certainly got the crowd going, especially after their first three numbers when they seemed to start showing their true musical colours.
If this was anything you go by, it may well be worth checking them out.
The last time John Lydon was in Bexhill, at the De La Warr, was to help promote his recent book ‘Anger Is An Energy’ in October, something he made reference to at the gig. He suggested that, if nothing else, the book would be useful to help keep the toilet door open!
I was also present that night and wrote a review of that evening too. If you’re interested, you can find that review here: http://tinyurl.com/nvpftex