Sounds, January, 1979

© 1978 Sounds

Live at the Rainbow, Xmas Day 1978

by Ross Crighton

Christmas was going to be perfect. Just fantastic. Public Image on Christmas Day, more than a gig... an event. I mean, they made the best single of the year, and although the album was disappointing 'Low life' and bits of 'Religion' were good. Anyway it'll be great to see them live... no doubt about it, something to look forward to.

The stage looks fantastic, just like the new posters Virgin have been putting up 'round town. All green and black. The minute Mr. Rotten walks on stage you think it's all been worth it. I mean, he looks so great. Checked suit, funny hat and shopping bags... you only saw me for the clothes I wore... They start with 'Theme' from the LP. The barrage of requests for old favourites that follows is met with characteristic snot - "Listen, don't ever ask for any Pistols numbers, that's history, ya know what I mean." The sound still hasn't improved. The bass and drums are OK, very much like the album, but the guitar's virtually inaudible.

Next is 'Low life', which gets a bit of action out of a remarkably lethargic audience, then after about a minute of 'Attack' a huge fight breaks out at the front and the band stop playing altogether. Another five minute wait while John throws a moody (threatens to leave) and gives us a lecture ("Don't fight among yourselves - when will you ever learn?"). Then follows a good version of 'Belsen was a gas' which is introduced as a song "me and Keith Levene wrote". Funny, before we were told it was Sid, anyway I don't care who wrote it, it is the best moment of the night. The words are changed around a bit too.

Then 'Religion' and 'Annalisa'. All through the set though it seems that the total is so much less than the sum of the parts. Keith Levene ambles round the stage and spends an inordinate amount of time trying, but not succeeding, to tune his guitars. Jah Wobble just sits, struggling with his bass. Donut on drums is great, he's holding the whole thing together. The initial visual impact of the stage just doesn't hold up... in short, it gets boring.

At two minutes past twelve Rotten walks off, comes back and tells us we can have one more, which is the single. As great as it is it can't seem to revive many failing spirits. Even before it's finished the house lights are flashing. They played for about 40 minutes in all. What more can I say? It didn't so much end as fizzle out.

During a two hour walk home in the early morning rain you get to think of a lot of things. Basically it's just been horrible from beginning to end. A bloody disaster. Just a bad gig, organized by and starring a group you didn't think could ever be bad. No magic. No spirit. It may be purposely anti-intellectual but it's very little fun, ya know what I mean. Christmas comes but once a year.

Did you ever get the feeling you've been conned...?


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