I wonder what a venom spitting, establishment bashing Johnny Rotten would have made of the prospect of a 40th anniversary tour back at the height of the foundation shaking explosion of the Sex Pistols back in 1977?
The Pistols may have flickered very brightly and ever so briefly but they certainly left their mark. Johnny Rotten morphed back into plain old John Lydon and quietly went about reconstructing a musical career with Public Image Limited that has now reached it`s 40th birthday. Surely it`s only old dinosaurs like The Who and Emerson Lake and Palmer who celebrate 40th birthdays? Lydon, ever the rule breaker however, does just what he wants and this evening fans turned up in their droves to celebrate 40 years with Lydon and his band PiL.
For an hour and a half Lydon plundered material from right across the PiL catalogue opening with Warrior from 9, their final offering of the `80`s before heading back into the `70`s with Memories and forward to The One from their latest album, What The World Needs Now. Within the space of three or four songs Lydon had covered four decades of PiL all with his trademark vitriolic rasp as cutting as ever.
The hypnotic, brooding bass line of Scott Firth laid the foundations for Lydon`s biting attack on the modern world during Corporate. Death Disco`s up-tempo dance beat belied the agony of Lydon`s lyrics and his anguish at the loss of his mother was etched in every word.
Musically PiL cover so much ground, whether it’s the tribal rhythms of Flowers of Romance or the Funky vibe of I`m Not Satisfied or the T-Rex like feel to The One, no one can accuse them to sticking to a rigid formula.
With the home stretch bringing in the big hitters, This Is Not A Love Song, a real stomper to get the dance floor moving and Rise sounding big and imposing, there was no way PiL could fail.
Public Image was arguably the closest Lydon got to the sound of the Pistols all evening before closing with the Leftfield collaboration, Open Up which morphed into an X-rated Shoom.
Lydon has given us a scintillating four decades of PiL and this evening was the perfect celebration of their landmark birthday and who would have thought 40 years ago that he`d go from Public Enemy Number 1 into a national treasure and a bastion of British music pushing the boundaries of creativity along the way.
Review and Photos By Mick Burgess