Rolling Stone, June 25, 1981
© 1981 Rolling Stone
The New York, Ritz
"You're what I call a passive audience," said John Lydon of Public Image Ltd. at the outset of their impromptu gig last month at the Ritz (where they replaced an indisposed Bow Wow Wow.) Minutes later bottles were whizzing through the air, a chair was flung from the balcony, and the group was hustled offstage by security in a melee that left several persons injured, considerable property damage, and plenty of ill will all around. The reason for the fracas was PiL's insistence on playing behind the club's videoscreen and performing to the packed house via simultaneous broadcast: "live video," as guitarist Keith Levene dubbed it. But the audiencemany of whom waited hours in a downpour for ticketswas not amused by the projected concert, which musically consisted of bleepy dub fragments punctuated by occasional drum bursts, nor by the interspliced (and utterly inane) pre-recorded PiL video material. Lusty booing began and bottles started to fly. As objects continued to pelt the stage ("You're not throwing enough," Lydon taunted), the crowd down front got their licks in by yanking the floor sheet out from under the group, dragging instruments and amplifiers with it. While Lydon chanted, "New York, New York, it's a helluva town," a furious Levene appeared in front of the screen to berate the crowd and was tackled by a roadie seconds before an attempted Heineken lobotomy. The band then fled the maelstrom.
"They were an angry mob, and that's that," explained a surprisingly unsneering Lydon at a press conference two days later. A more combatative Levene, looking like a charmless Artful Dodger, placed full blame on the audience and declared he was "satisfied" with the concert. "I have to be ... it was that intense. The impact was immaculate." Some were reminded of the lyrics to the band's first song: "Public Image, you got what you wanted."
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