Starting with the elephant in the room, Public Image has always been John Lydon’s ‘leading’ outfit. Big ideas, mixed with original creative thought, PIL continue to be one of the most relevant art assignments, challenging societal beliefs of authority, branding, politics, diversity, consumerism and music.
Supporting their legacy as the first outfit to cross musical genre boundaries, this evening PIL take us on a journey covering punk, afro funk, dub, art rock, disco and techno; their sound is nothing if not mixed.
Nudging their relevance, five of tonight’s tracks (including standout ‘I’m not satisfied’) originate from the past six years, the remaining 11 coming from earlier work, and one solo Lydon collaboration (‘Open up’).
Lydon, as he would be even in a chippy, is the centre of attention. Energetic, snarling and serious he spits out lyrics covering drugs, decay and the media. 62 years old, and still inspired by the year zero reconditioning of punk, he remains a master at challenging his audience to think for themselves and fight against institutions who misuse their power.
Between song interactions, covering banal topics including football and the weather, provide a reminder that although Lydon has always been happy to voice his opinion, his intention has always been to destroy the idea of iconography, musical or not, not to become one. It’s a fine balance which he nails tonight.
Musically outstanding, the remainder of PIL spend the evening bringing the tribal/techno element of PIL to the front of the mix in an attempt to produce the sense of community that often comes from a club/rave backdrop. Despite their efforts, and encouragement from John, the o2 crowd don’t seem to fully commit to club style behaviour tonight, something which even an NUFC scarf and a final flurry of ‘Love song’, Rise’, ‘Public Image’ and ‘Open up’ can’t produce. Perhaps everyone was too busy challenging their beliefs.
Public Image are one of the very best.