Guide 2 Bristol, July 22nd, 2010

© 2010 Guide 2 Bristol / Paul Holbrook

Bristol, O2 Academy, UK, July 20th 2010

Bristol gig review: John Lydon and Public Image Ltd, O2 Academy

Paul Holbrook reviews the John Lydon and Public Image Ltd gig at Bristol O2 Academy

When the opportunity arose for me to review one of my heroes, John Lydon, performing with his post sex pistols band Public Image Ltd (PiL) at Bristol's O2 Academy, I jumped at the chance.

I’m only 29, so I never got the chance to experience The Sex Pistols first hand. I became a fan of not only what I consider to be the punk rock band but also the charismatic, outspoken, legend of a lead singer during the music education I received from my uncles growing up.

Somehow PiL slipped by me without making much of an impact on my music education. After attending this gig only to watch Mr Lydon, I walked out with not only a reaffirmed love of their talented talisman but also an instant fan of PiL.

The evening started with a protest by people objecting to PIL agreeing to perform in Israel despite the situation with the Palestinian blockade. Lydon put this to bed early on in the gig when he screamed at the crowd “I perform for PEOPLE”…so lets just leave that little issue there.

The set list was electric, a gentle mind bender taking you from hypnotic melodies and ghostly lyrics from Lydon to straight up crowd pleasing, bass heavy semi-punk pop-rock songs. This is the joy of PiL, they simply do not fit into any category of music that I can put my finger on, this is something out there on its own.

John Lydon sang every song with real passion and you could see that this is HIS band, whereas the Sex Pistols I would say belonged to the fans, the era, the persona of the band as a whole and to the punk rock movement in general.

When you think about John Lydon and the Sex Pistols, you think about the atmosphere their gigs must have generated amongst the crowd. With PiL, the band comes first, and the crowd are just gently blown along by the music. I can honestly say that at points during the gig, it felt like just me and the band, it felt so personal and heartfelt. I think the gig itself would have been equally as amazing had it been in the back room at my nans house.

Lydon’s voice was out of this world. Yes, they used lots of effects, but this man can carry a note, and to perform like he did at his age beggars belief (and he claimed he was rusty!). Take nothing away from the performance of his band mates though, they were tight, loud, and seem phenomenally talented, the music was on par with Lydon's performance and during many of the instrumentals you were taken on a separate journey altogether. Dance music? Punk rock? Jazz? Blues? No, it’s just PiL, and they cannot be categorised.

Not being a fan before the gig it felt like I was watching a brand new animal. If John Lydon comes through on his promise to produce another PiL studio album then I can assure you I will be first in the queue.


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