New York Post, May 19th 2010
© 2010 New York Post
New York, Terminal 5, USA, May 18th 2010
‘Rot’ the house
Johnny still an easy PiL to swallow
by Dan Aquliante
Despite the leather-clad, spikyhaired lookalikes who peppered the audience at Terminal 5 last night, there is only one Johnny Rotten.
Rotten, 54, who these days goes by his given name, John Lydon, is still the brash, politically outspoken, anti-authoritarian punk who assaulted music, first as a Sex Pistol and then by leading the post-punk movement with his other band, Public Image LTD.
This show resurrected PiL after an 18-year New York performance hiatus. And the band’s kitchen-sink mix of rock, noise, dance and pop remains as strange and engaging as its frontman.
Lydon dressed in basic-black baggy shirt and slacks — casual but neat. His wild, brown-to-blond hair reached out in every direction, and as he sang, his mug contorted into an ugly face.
If he stood next to you on the A train, you might step away from him, but there’s a message in his public image of madness.
His look and his attitude celebrated the strength in individuality. Even the songs such as “Public Image,” “This Is Not A Love Song,” “Warrior” and “Flowers of Romance” centered on uniqueness, either in word or variation of musical style. It was a quality even his backing band embraced.
While not the original lineup, the group now features late-’80s PiL guitarist Lu Edmunds and drummer Bruce Smith, with bassist Scott Firth as the new addition.
Lydon, of course, sings, but he’s not a singer. He howls, screams, rolls his R’s and bleats like a goat in heat. It’s a sonic circus coming out of his mouth.
As odd as that sounds, it’s dynamic. With a frontman like Lydon, it would be easy to forget about the band. Still, this group demanded attention, showing its skill during songs that extended into a free-form jams with tempo switch-ups and odd instrumentation.
There was no opening act, so there was enough time to be generous with the music and allow Lydon to get chatty with the crowd.
In one breath, the singer would playfully goad the audience, “You’re quiet, New York, I’m here to wake you up.” Then he got politically serious with some Obama-era Bush bashing.
To introduce the song “Religion,” played, Lydon took time to take a whack at the pope’s past, asking “Was the pope a Nazi?” And answered himself, “Yes, he was.”
Lydon will probably have to do some time in hell for that, but with a show as powerful as this one was, he might get a reduced sentence.
Lydon concludes the US leg of the PiL tour tonight at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
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