Friday, April 06, 2012
PiL : Public Image Limited - London Heaven - 02 April 2012
At last. The past two decades have been barren for fans of John Lydon. The nineties saw two albums, two stand alone singles, and two tours. The first decade of the millennia saw two Sex Pistols tours, and one new song. Perhaps fitting that, as the decade brought to a close, PiL finally returned to action with barely 16 days left of the decade.
Bankrolled back into life by adverts for food, PiL meanwhile show that whilst The Pistols may have been the body and soul of Lydon, PiL is the heart and the mind, and, perhaps more than that, whereas in the Pistols he means it, man, here, in PiL, Lydon just is.
So much more than the box people put him in. An unholy, purifying blend of world sounds, pummeling dub bass, and raw, sharp guitars, a primal scream howl of uncompromising honesty. It's not easy : but nothing worthwhile is.
This is where Lydon belongs. Premiering the first new PiL material since 1992, Lydon, and his band of Bruce Smith on drums, Scott Firth on bass, and Lu Edmonds on guitar, are, in all ways and means, an absolute continuation of PiL in a way that is both utterly faithful and also, specifically, their own. The band have never sounded better. In the confines of London's leading basement club, Heaven, PiL fight against the strangely shaped room which is thin and long, and the fact that they perform intensely for over two and a half hours underneath a huge array of hundreds of fluroscent ballons for that evening's round of “Mr Gay UK”.
The band open with “Deeper Water” at 8.29pm. This, like the other songs due on the imminent “This Is PiL” album, are refreshing and wonderful to hear. “Garden of Eden”, likewise : a combination of PiL's uncompromising early work with relentless, intense rhythms, and punishing bass - I've never heard live bass so loud and pummeling in my life. (And yes, I saw Leftfield in their prime) – and the later, more obvious rock albums. Imagine if you will, the accessable rock of “Album” and the pounding noise that is “Metal Box”, and you have the new PiL.
Aside from Lydon – whose voice is one of the most unique instruments in the universe – the revelation is Lu Edmonds, who, despite looking like a Catweazle armed with a bizarre guitar, conjours up enormous sounds with the mere flick of a button. On the closing song of the main set, “Through The Woods”, there are moments where the entire song lifts to a giddy crescendo, where the guitars transcend, the bass roars, and everything becomes so much more than just a combination of instruments and ideas to a primal, spiritual roar. The older material, from a wonderfully blunt “This Is Not A Love Song”, to the final gonzo bonkers 17 minute freakout of “Open Up”, were both utterly of the here and now as well as obviously of their time. This stuff is not just then and now, but forever.
The new material slots right into the old. Perfect. No dulling of the blade with time, but sharp and precise as ever. The older songs – “Religion”, “Death Disco”, “Chant” - each executed : and executed is the exact word : sounding not just as immense and lethal as the records, but more so. I've not seen a band quite so intense in twenty years. By the close of the night, 155 minutes after they took to the stage, PiL are still performing passionately and with the same fervour they did the moment they walked on stage.
At 55 or so, and a long way into the journey, PiL now are a band that have reclaimed from history their legacy and own it again. Make no mistake, this is PiL, this is what you want and this what you get, and this is one of the best gig I have seen from John Lydon. Burn, Burn, Burn.
deeper water, this is not a love song, albatross, garden.of eden, disappointed, warrior, religion, usls1, death disco, flowers of romance, bags, chant, though the woods, one drop, rise, open up