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REVIEW 1: Public Image Limited

By SPP Reporter

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John Lydon of Public Image Limited. Picture: Callum Mackay
John Lydon of Public Image Limited. Picture: Callum Mackay


Public Image Limited

Ironworks, Inverness

* * * * *

by Margaret Chrystall

MAYBE you can take the man out of punk, but not punk out of the man.

That’s what you found yourself thinking, as PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED’s John Lydon perfectly aimed a gob of spit into a well-placed bin onstage at the Ironworks on Saturday night.

A little later in the set – just before the sungalong majesty of early hit Rise – there was another small shower of spit.

But you sensed these one-time signature acts of punk were purely practical, like a footballer clearing out his tubes to run some more, Lydon getting ready to pump out the volume on what became an almost operatic shuddering siren of a voice at times.

Yet the former angry young man – who railed against royalty in the Sex Pistols’ second single God Save The Queen in 1977 – is no less incensed by issues in the world around him now.

Final encore Shoom says "f*** off!" to everything from "success" to "all sex is f***ing b***ocks!" in one of PiL’s latest songs, from last year’s album, What The World Needs Now.

And there can be few more comprehensive trashings of religion than the extended version the Ironworks got in Religion, the penultimate song of the main set.

It was a song Lydon wrote while still in the Sex Pistols in 1978, but which was too much for fellow band members - and Malcolm McLaren feared would be bad for the Pistols’ image! Their reaction proved one of the final nails in the coffin for Lydon and the continued life of the band.

Even the Vicar Of Dibley gets a mention, John going on to point out the likeness guitarist Lu Edmonds has to Jesus, before giving us bassist and keyboardist Scott Firth as "Satan" and drummer Bruce Smith as "the Archangel Gabriel".

John Lydon of Public Image Limited. Picture: Callum Mackay
John Lydon of Public Image Limited. Picture: Callum Mackay

As if the respectful, enthusiastic crowd – mostly of a certain age – was in any doubt of the exalted company they were already in...

From the off, as each song ended, a long baying cheer rolled on long after a live crowd’s usual response, despite the sameyness of the singer’s phrasing and the repetitive quality of that harsh-sounding semi-shout.

It didn’t take long to sense that the feeling was mutual.

"What a f***ing pleasure to be here, thank you!" John said before fourth song This Is Not A Love Song.

Down near the front, you could see him look into the wings, possibly to a tour or stage manager at the end of a couple of songs, eyebrows raised once, another time lips stuck out in a sort of "Whoa! reaction, as if the packed Ironworks’ reaction was a big surprise.

Later on between sipping from what looked like water in a wineglass and something else from a big white mug, John paid the audience his first compliment after Warrior from album 9.

"I get the impression we may be sharing a few f***ing ideas here. Glasgow’s got a f***ing lot to catch you up on. You’ve f***ing put this place on the map!"

Guitarist Lu Edmonds of Public Image Limited. Picture: Callum Mackay
Guitarist Lu Edmonds of Public Image Limited. Picture: Callum Mackay

Maybe it was because Inverness had been waiting half a lifetime to pay tribute to Lydon, PiL and all he had meant to those grey heads while they were growing up.

Age – as for many of us – has expanded that emaciated Rotten waistline and it was touching when he whipped out a pair of specs after Deeper Water and said "Aah! Now I can see you!"

Plus, there was a handy lectern with sheet music on it, possibly to counter the curse of his generation’s now sometimes failing memory.

But age had done nothing to soften the vitriol in the star’s delivery, the manic stare, the belligerent pushed-out jaw, the sneer.

John Lydon of Public Image Limited. Picture: Callum Mackay
John Lydon of Public Image Limited. Picture: Callum Mackay

The older generation in front of him didn’t show off with more and more extravagent reactions to the band ... to impress each other, like a Years And Years crowd, say, creating their own drama. Nor did they spend much of the gig recording the whole thing on their phones to watch that second-hand experience later, consuming the gig in that whole different way the selfie generation loves.

Near the front, this crowd wanted to drink in the experience in front of them. There wasn’t much jumping around, but they obediently clapped on cue when John raised his hands over his head, swelled out choruses and made an anthem out of songs such as Rise, first encore number I’m Not Satisfied and the united cacophony of "F*** offs" in final number Shoom.

Backing vocals came from Scott and Lu stepping up on the fabulous Death Disco with Lu on his stunning electric saz insinuating the Tchaikovsky Swan Lake theme to mash up with John’s vocal.

Bassist Scott shifted to upright bass and with John teasing in sung mantra "We like-a the bass", as instructed the bass was turned up and began to thunder out of the speakers, soundwaves creating their own breeze wafting the hairs on your arms, while your ears somehow remained unharmed.

The night ended as it had begun, John double-punching his heart with his fist before pumping the arm out wide to cover the room in a possibly unexpected love declaration from one of rock’s apparently most awkward customers.

He looked down at the punters right in front of him in the final surge of applause and quietly said "You’re special!" before extending the praise.

"I f***ing know YOUR name – top of the map!" shouted the punk legend.

Afterwards outside, 60s-born David from Inverness remembered seeing PiL in action at the Barrowlands in 1985 when thrown cans marred the night and a stroppy John had finally ended the gig early.

So how would the veteran fan rate this Ironworks performance, apparently destined to join the venue’s most memorable gigs.

"Out of five stars? Hmmm..." David mused. "10?"

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