PiL Live At Glasgow's O2 ABC

Prime Post Punk Provocateurs
Public Image Ltd

From the opening tripartite bombardment of a spry yet tellingly ferocious This Is Not A Love Song which segued seamlessly into a hypnotic, rolling on the balls of the feet Poptones straight into Memories, it’s clear we were witnessing a group in their absolute prime. There’s not an ounce of musical fat on these guys; stripped back, lean and spirited, this is the real deal and you better believe they mean it.

The familiar tribal drumming of Flowers Of Romance from the excellent and incendiary Bruce Smith (formerly of The Pop Group & The Slits) extended the song into a glorious improvisational loop of near meditative clarity. The razor sharp playing of (former Damned guitarist) Lu Edmonds came into it’s own playing a Middle Eastern dulcimer/banjo like instrument with a bow (I asked him afterwards what it was but confess the red stripe dulled my brain; a Bouzouki?). Whilst former eclectic session man Scott Firth decimated any lingering shadow of Wobble with his shuddering bass, which battered through the audience’s organs like a well timed juggernaught.

An insidious and blistering Religion grew from a feral caterwauling into a full blown ancestral assault on the senses: a base hatred for dogma virtually seething from the stage like a bag of snakes. We knew the Pope would get a mention…this time not only was he questioned as a Nazi? but a potential paedophile? At the very least, a facilitator of heinous crimes. Perfectly provocative for the historically divisive and sectarian Glasgow audience, such sentiments certainly received a big cheer.

There was a small surprise at the inclusion of ‘Psychopath’ into the set, one of Lydon’s solo songs which he rather charmingly dedicated to the ladies whilst he gurgled and spat brandy into a dustbin on stage (as elegantly as one is able). It’s lubrication for the vocal chords he advised me, which is required during a 2 hour plus set, which saw him wail, moan and scream with the sprightly conviction of a man half his age.

His glitchy ‘dancing’, all stiff armed and splayed at the wrists, had him come over like some gloriously fucked up Balinese dancer and is the only thing that belied his (non obvious) stage fright. A dub heavy ‘Death Disco’ was a highlight, as intense and emotional as it should be; urgent, explosively menacing and simultaneously melancholic. The lighting guy was also bang on the money swathing the stage with pulsating red beams in perfect syncopation with the rhythm section.

The unfussy encore began with a high energy and long awaited Public Image followed by the sing along, bone fide hit of Rise, the entire crowd chanting along to ‘anger is an energy’. It all came to an end with a delightful and unexpected take on ‘Open Up’. Everyone I saw leaving the venue was electric, charged up, smiling.

Earlier in the evening a minor problem with the monitors was requested to be sorted out with “I may be old but that doesn’t mean I don’t care”. Well, you didn’t need to tell us that John. Every cell and nerve assures us that you do.

Words by Anna Wilson

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