The Indigo2 was certainly the place to be on a freezing cold December night in London town and it was a perfect venue with a bar that stretched all along the back wall – a cavernous space with excellent acoustics, just right for the one-off Public Image Ltd gig. The evening promised to be an iconoclastic musical experience. The BibleCode Sundays opened the evening. They are a gutsy 6 piece contemporary London Irish band. Devilishly handsome fellas too, all with a glint in their eye and a cheeky grin. Their music is passionate – a hybrid of Anglo-Celtic traditional music laced with influences from the Brit-Irish rock genre. If you take The Pogues, Oasis and The Clash and put them all in one band, you would end up with something like The BibleCode Sundays. Their music is highly addictive and exciting; my feet couldn’t help but move to the Celtic rock rhythm of The BibleCode Sundays.
The BibleCode Sundays
The lads were joined on stage by guest vocalist, Cathy McManamon (sister of Tommy from the Popes), a red haired beauty with a husky voice that was just right for the rendition of ‘The Fairytale of New York.’ The Codes finished their set with ‘Maybe It’s Because I’m an Irish Londoner’ an original song penned by Ronan MacManus, that reflects the feelings of the London Irish community – they certainly grabbed my attention and that of the crowd, setting the tone perfectly for Lydon and PiL.
John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten entered the stage with Public Image Limited. Here stood a sharp-dressed and well-groomed man, in a plaid suit an embodied image of the aristocracy – I wonder if it was a statement to say, ‘Here I am – this is me, don’t judge me from the outside but look within, because we are all equal.’ – a visual allegory to the song ‘Public Image” perhaps. The crowd could not hold back the adoration and respect that they have for this man, the venue filled-up with raucous cheering, a manner of which I had not previously experienced at any of the gigs that I have attended or photographed. “Allo! My name is John,” he said. The audience fell silent, apart from one heckler that shouted “wanker” and unwittingly entered himself into a North London rhetorical Jujitsu match; a match that Lydon with his quick-witted North London banter incidentally won. No harm was done – its all punk rock, or is it?
The first track was taken from PiLs’ latest album ‘This is PiL’ – ‘Deeper Water.’ The wax and wane of Lydon’s undulating tones flooded the arena of Indigo2 along with the spinous guitar riffs, the rise and fall of the bass guitar and rhythmic drumming. Lydon performed the track with an intense passion that seized the attention of the crowd. Lou Edmonds was on Lead guitar, Scott Firth played on bass and Bruce Smith on drums, they were brilliant and their sound was nothing less than enthralling.
John removed his jacket and waistcoat much to the delight of the crowd. Lydon’s trenchant vocals spliced through Indigo2 ‘This is Not a Love Song’ engendered the animation of the crowd and a lone crowd surfer that almost landed on me in the pit. Lydon’s performance was riveting and consumed the audience entirely. The fans loved every moment. This was more than a gig, it was a whole production of carefully coordinated musical pieces, that fitted together to form nothing less than a contemporary and powerful operatic performance.
There was a moment of silence, John had stopped performing and stated, “Never let anyone tell you to act your fucking age.” he then walked off the stage: The fans momentarily appeared to be in stupefied state, they actually appeared lost – there was none of usual shouts for an encore, in fact a deathly silence was in the air for a few brief moments, then the silence was broken as one of the fans – me, in fact hollered at the top of my voice, “Come on John!” That was it everyone started cheering for more. He returned to the stage with the band. ‘One Drop’ was the first song of the encore set; a song that discusses the current state of the nation and draws parallels with the song of the same name from Bob Marley. The encore set included the classic ‘Public Image,’ ‘Rise’ and ended with the belting tune ‘Open Up,’ the Lydon-Leftfield thumping hardcore classic that reverberated through the halls of the O2 complex.
This gig was a celebration of all that is Public Image Ltd. Their music is constantly evolving and always innovative there is nothing reticent about this man and his music. Yes of course there were retrospective pieces and why not, however the evening was not a moment to remember days gone by, but a showpiece of everything that is PiL.
Here before you is this geezer called John, a working class man proud of his roots, he comes straight to the point, life is too short to mince words. He does not sing in the conventional way. His music is a message for everyone. He is not afraid to speak his mind using his most powerful tool, his music – that which is his art.