Public Image Ltd
September 22, 2015
Fibbers is packed tonight. Hot on the tails of recent gigs by The Stranglers and The Damned, it’s a complete sell-out for probably the most anticipated gig of the year – John Lydon’s Public Image Ltd.
The word ‘legend’ is bandied around a lot these days, but like him or loathe him, John Lydon can justifiably lay claim to the title. And whether they would admit it or not, pretty much every band that’s stood on the Fibbers stage will have been influenced in some way by Lydon’s output.
The former Sex Pistol is the only member of PiL to have survived what is now a ten-album, 37-year career, but of course, it doesn’t matter – like The Fall and erm Simply Red – they’re not a band of equals, and it’s him we’re here for.
Looking round, there’s not many new converts – the majority of the audience seems to be made up of people who are old enough to be ex-punks or have joined the PiL journey along the way.
There’s even a few Mohicans, although I have to say that it doesn’t look great when a Mohican has a space in the middle for the bald patch.
PiL come on without fanfare, Lydon setting out his lyric book (worrying) on a music stand in front of him before going into Double Trouble from new album What The World Needs Now…
The band are tight and well rehearsed and the sound mix is superb except, well, it’s a bit too quiet and the stomach-churning throb of the bass which is so much a part of many PiL songs is missing. Maybe they’re catering for the older audience?
Dressed in a large jacket and wearing round glasses, Lydon could be mistaken for a chemistry lecturer, were it not for the snarling expression, the piercing threatening stare and that voice.
Lydon’s signature is still his delivery – on the one hand an attention-grabbing vibrato-laden scream, lubricated tonight with regular swigs of brandy, and on the other, a menacing, preaching sermon, delivered with venom by the most opinionated man in music.
He’s flanked by bass player Scott Firth who, together with former Pop Group drummer Bruce Smith, provide a solid bottom end through a combination of bass, sequences and loops, which are then layered by the extraordinary sounds coming from guitarist Lu Edmonds.
The jacket (and the glasses) are soon off as the heat rises in Fibbers and the band reel through a series of songs pulled from several different albums.
The huge Fibbers mirrorball starts spinning right on cue for This Is Not A Love Song and other highlights include Disappointed and Deeper Water.
Inevitably, there’s some low points, and for me these were Poptones and The One, which disappoint and seem to lack any dynamics.
It’s reflected in the crowd and Lydon seems bemused by what he perceives to be a lacklustre reaction. “You can amuse yourselves between songs you know,” he spits, concerned at just how quiet the audience is between numbers “We’re not on a fucking cruise ship.”
There’s a half-hearted cheer and Lydon responds with “And the York crowd go mild.”
He surely can’t be expecting pogoing from people of our age?
He needn’t have worried. The set picks up and by now the audience, the band, and Lydon in particular, are soaked in sweat and by the time they get to the final number, everyone is onside.
They leave the stage to cheers and a roadie has to come on to let us know there will be an encore, John’s just getting a bit of air and cooling down.
After a long break where we’re left wondering if he has collapsed in the heat, they return looking refreshed, Lydon telling us that he’s been “towelling down with the knickers from the lap dancing club upstairs”.
They do a great version of Religion, where John spits vitriol at the church, before launching into their theme-tune first single, and ending the night with Rise.
PiL were on stage for nearly two hours, yet still had hits to spare – Flowers Of Romance and Open Up were both missing from tonight’s set, but they delivered a great set, performed well.
On the way out, I chat to someone who is positively jumping for joy because he got to touch John’s hand as he left the stage – “He touched me, I can’t believe it – I feel really honoured” he’s saying – something you might expect from a 14-year old who reached out to One Direction, but this guy is in his fifties and is probably a chartered accountant by day.
Still, that’s what legendary status does I suppose.
Anyone looking to continue the nostalgia rush could watch Lydon on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories on Friday, but a much better option would be to record that and head to Fibbers to see The Icicle Works, one of Liverpool’s finest exports, fronted by the second most opinionated man in music – Ian McNabb.