tue 25/07/2017

Public Image Ltd, O2 Academy, Birmingham | reviews, news & interviews

Public Image Ltd, O2 Academy, Birmingham

Public Image Ltd, O2 Academy, Birmingham

The revitalized Lydon rhythm machine continues to impress

This is what you want, this is what you get...

Thirty seven years since first breaking into the public consciousness and following a period being regarded as punk’s pantomime dame, John Lydon is now finally reaping wider musical recognition and kudos. Recent times have seen a revitalisation of Public Image Ltd (albeit in the guise of a cottage industry and completely on their own terms) with extensive touring and the muscular return-to-form album, This is PiL.

However, I have to admit I attended last night's show with a degree of trepidation. PiL have never been the most consistent band and I wondered if the man who used to insult hippies, journalists and record executives alike with a glib “You’re too old!” could cut it on stage at 57.

Anyone expecting a heritage punk rock show was to be disappointed

Before PiL even took to the stage, however, Pauline Black’s The Selecter had large portions of the crowd on their feet and skanking to a set of old-school ska, and could quite easily have been headliners themselves. But then, this is Birmingham and that kind of thing goes down very well around here. Tracks like “Three Minute Hero”, “Train to Skaville” and “On My Radio” had us bouncing around like it was heyday of the Two-Tone, rather than an echo of things happening 35 years ago.

After a short break, PiL took to the stage with a pounding version of recent number, “Deeper Water”, then launched into a groove-driven take on 1979’s “Albatross”. These set the tone for a show that was largely drawn from their post-punk classic Metal Box/Second Edition and last year’s This is PiL album, with drawn out versions of “Poptones”, “Careering”, “Death Disco”, “Reggie Song” and “Into the Woods”. That said, there was also a liberal sprinkling of tunes from This is What You Want, This is What You Get onwards that even included a snatch of the rarely heard “Order of Death” integrated into 1987's abortion/contraception piece “The Body”. Anyone expecting a heritage punk rock show, though, was to be disappointed. The PiL of 2013 has way more in common with the motorik sounds of Can and Neu! than anything served up by the likes of the UK Subs – and they are all the better for it. This is a band driven by a deep, rumbling groove and Lu Edmonds, Scott Firth and Bruce Smith really delivered the goods behind the familiar Lydon wail.

Whether it was because this gig was on a Sunday night or because only a handful of those in attendance seemed to be under the age of 40, the audience response was pretty limp until the encore of the more mainstream-sounding (well, as mainstream as PiL get) hits – their debut manifesto “Public Image”, the mid-Eighties sing-along “Rise”, and “Open Up”, Lydon’s rampaging 1993 collaboration with dance duo Leftfield. This was a shame because the band was on fire from their first appearance on stage to the moment the house lights finally came back on.

Watch PiL play "Rise" live at Glastonbury

The PiL of 2013 has way more in common with the motorik sounds of Can and Neu! than anything served up by the likes of the UK Subs

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters