Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Anger is an energy

Public Image Ltd. (Pil) were never the easiest band to like. A brilliant eponymous first single was followed by an album 'First Issue' which could politely be described as 'challenging'; it's follow-up 'Metal Box' was if anything even more uncompromising and the third 'Flowers Of Romance' blew away pretty much any fans of the lead singer's first band who were still gamely hanging on in the hope that he'd return to a sound that approached that band's former glories. Me? I loved the first single (I bought it in it's mock newspaper sleeve) but struggled with the first album (I bought it anyway) 'though I made more sense of the second album (which I bought in it's original, er, metal box format) and I liked the title track of the third... as the 1980's progressed they moved through various line-up changes with the aforementioned lead singer as the only constant member, releasing some excellent singles and some fine albums along the way before winding up in 1992. Against most if not all of the odds they've just reformed for a series of live performances, one of which I saw at The Electric Ballroom in Camden Town last night. Opening with 'Public Image' and playing for over 2 hours they (John Lydon, Lu Edmonds, Scott Firth and Bruce Smith) touched all parts of the band's catalogue in a fine set which showed the diversity of their material, from the synth-pop of 'This Is Not A Love Song' to the near metal funk of 'Death Disco'. And Lydon was, well, Lydon with all that that entails- with a voice that literally went from a whisper to a scream via all points in between and an unrivalled line in dealing with the inevitable hecklers and missile throwers ('you are in a house of friends here, do not make yourself into an enemy') he remains a total one-off, as brilliantly captivating as the band itself. It really wouldn't be the same without him, and after Pil's performance last night it wouldn't be the same without them- let's hope they don't leave it 17 years before the next gigs...

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