Report: Public Image Ltd. Live Toronto

 

 

At the Opera House
on October 18, Rotten & Co. put on a 2 ½ hour marathon that covered plenty
of ground.

 

Text & Photos by April S. Engram

 

For those who know their punk rock history, Public Image
Ltd. need no introduction. Formed in ’78, disbanded in ’92 and regrouped in
2009, 2012 marked the release of PIL’s first album in 20 years. The ever
formidable lead singer John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten of Sex Pistols fame),
guitarist/instrumentalist Lu Edmonds (The Damned, The Clash), drummer Bruce
Smith and new recruit bassist Scott Firth are on tour promoting their latest
effort – appropriately titled after such a long absence – This Is PIL. Perhaps fans of the “old” PIL might’ve walked away
from Toronto’s
Opera House disappointed that the band did not play more of the classic hits
(“Public Image” didn’t make the cut); nevertheless, the talented and seasoned musicians
made the House rumble.

 

The band took to the stage and leapt
into ‘80s single, “This Is Not A Love Song,” new track “Deeper Water” and the
10 minute classic, “Albatross.” Older tracks were revamped to fit the new
outfit and though such songs sounded slightly different from their original
recordings, PIL made each number heavier and punchier. With just three
instruments and a computer for the more electronic sounds, PIL created quite a
bit of noise.

 

 

 

Edmonds
proved amazing to watch as he effortlessly created an array of sounds from his
tweaked collection of stringed instruments: guitar, saz and cumbus. Smith
pummeled his drums while Firth created the heavy, bass laden riffs that drown
PIL’s music. Lydon growled, shouted and bellowed the lyrics in a signature style
all his own, and the most avid fans sang along. As the vocalist’s delivery is surely
demanding on his throat, his cure was: drink water, gargle Hennessy and spit
the remnants in a bucket.

 

When done with the first few tracks Lydon finally
addressed the audience which led to shouts of song titles. “What is this,”
Lydon asked us, “are we a fucking wedding band, taking requests?” (The shouting
turned to applause and laughter as Lydon chatted on about the band’s
relationship with the audience – it is indeed like a marriage was the
conclusion.) PIL’s sound is trance inducing; with tracks often in the 6-8
minute mark, most fans stood in place and rocked their body or bopped their
head to the repetitive beats. Lydon wanted more.

 

“What’s that other big city in Canada,”
he began, “Montreal?
They were louder than you!” He facetiously smiled as the audience booed loudly,
but of course this wouldn’t stop Johnny Rotten. “They booed louder than you” he
continued. The concert hall drowned in boos and laughter, “Parlez vous
Francais,” he asked in his laden Brit accent. “We don’t believe in French,” a
girl returned which made Lydon laugh. “Come now,” he finally retorted, “we’re
all one.” Though the concert hall might have been a bit more mellow than
anticipated, the majority of audience enjoyed the high octane show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the politicized “Religion,” Lydon introduced us to
Jesus, Edmonds
approached the front of the stage for his guitar solo, and Satan, Firth plucked
away on his electric, stand-up bass.  Lydon thanked the crowd then paid
homage to the rest of PIL and his right hand man John Stevens, who stood on the
stage for the performance’s entirety before disappearing with the band
backstage.

 

Their absence was not a long one and PIL returned to
close the night with the loudest number yet, “Open Up.” A song Lydon recorded
with electronic/dance artist Leftfield, 
PIL reworked it into a heavy, bass laden performance that literally
circulated air from the speakers with each thump into the stacks. At the end Lydon
advanced to the edge of the stage, made sure to walk its length, and bowed to
the audience. Nearly 2.5 hours later Public Image Ltd. were done.

 

Setlist:

 

This Is Not a Love Song

Deeper Water

Albatross

One Drop

Flowers of Romance

Disappointed

Warrior

U.S.L.S. 1

Reggie Song

Death Disco

Bags / Chant

Religion

Encore:

Out of The Woods

Rise

Open Up

 

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