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Live Music Review No blanks in Lydon’s reloaded pistols

PiL (Public Image Limited)
Kentish Town Forum

CONTRARIAN, curmudgeon, punk and provocateur, former Sex Pistol John Lydon’s public image remains controversial, but London’s Forum is instead packed out to hear his flagship post-punk band Public Image Limited, commonly known as PiL.

Bounding on stage with the declaration “Back by popular demand” in his own distinctive drawl, the next 90 minutes showcase the band’s brand of post punk rock with a heavy accent of bass.

Opener Religion II is a focused, screaming attack of a song expertly delivered by Lydon backed by a band that tightly match each other’s moves and grooves.

Memories has a distinct beat, reminiscent of countercultural giants like Throbbing Gristle or Cabaret Voltaire yet Lydon’s post punk take is more melodic, and he probably got there first.

Warrior goes down well, Death Disco sees the audience start to dance more – or as much as you can to a song about the death of Lydon’s mother. The music continues to be tight, eccentric and never easy on the ear, but amazing to listen to and the icing on the cake remains Lydon.

He’s the centre of attention, his distinctive vocal style matched by his darting, stuttering moves, albeit more rooted to the spot behind his music stand.

This is Not a Love Song sees more shapes break out – both from audience and band – while Public Enemy is punk as it should be. Lydon commands all, whether barking his lyrics or berating the Disneyfication of the Sex Pistols by Danny Boyle – he calls Boyle a “class traitor” to much audience cheers.
The night ends with Rise, written about apartheid South Africa, and Nelson Mandela in particular.

It is the band’s most commercial hit, a cracking track with its refrain “Anger is an energy” leading to a mass singalong that has the whole room rocking.

With Lydon declaring “we’ll be back” as he leaves the stage, from tonight’s evidence so will the audience as while PiL’s Lydon may be a tad bitter, the musical medicine is well worth all the anger.
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