The Herald, July 28th, 2010
© 2010 The Herald / Neil Cooper
Glasgow, O2 ABC, UK, July 26th 2010
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Public Image Limited
by Neil Cooper
The protest outside the venue may be small, but the decision by PiL agent-provocateur in chief John Lydon not to cancel a forthcoming Israel date is just the latest episode in an anti-career of controversy. When Lydon reconvened his most important band after seventeen years at the end of 2009, the only thing that caused raised eyebrows then was the fact that original members Keith Levene and Jah Wobble weren’t on board.
Six months on, and guitarist Lu Edmonds and drummer Bruce Smith – both ex-members – alongside session bassist Scott Firth, have proven themselves exemplary musical foils. This thrilling two and a half hour trawl through one of the oddest greatest hits sets in modern music is more about purging than nostalgia.
The opening salvo of This Is Not A Love Song, Poptones and Memories set the tone, fiercely insistent barrages of dub bass and drum rhythms punctuated with shards of disparate guitar.
Over this, in between clearing his nose and spitting into a dustbin, Lydon lets rip with guttural howls worthy of Munch’s The Scream in a series of ferociously intense set-pieces.
Lydon is a force of nature, in turns feral, vulnerable and merciless, especially when some silly boys start an ugly scuffle during a harrowing Death Disco.
Lydon may be Uncle Johnny the taboo-busting clown, but his charisma is incendiary.
Edmonds scatters middle-eastern motifs throughout the percussion-heavy Flowers of Romance, and if the pummeling of Chant isn’t enough, the martial pounding of Religion finds Lydon pumping the bass up to trouser-wobbling level.
A final assault comes with a rapid-fire encore of Public Image, a euphoric Rise and a blistering Open Up. Israel should be very scared.
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