herald

Tuesday 14 August 2018

well worth the wait, johnny...

Been a long time coming, this one. Thirty-three years, to be exact. What's more, the man formerly known as Johnny Rotten is well aware of what his absence means to a Dublin audience. Never before had the capital played host to a concert by Public Image Ltd -- the 'band' that John Joseph Lydon formed in 1978 following the demise of the Sex Pistols. Anarchy, drugs, hair gel; the Pistols was just a phase, really, albeit a hugely influential one. But PiL ... now there's a day job to be proud of. Post-rock pioneers, too.

Sure, the line-up may have changed over the years, but who the hell cares? After all, this is Lydon's baby we're talking about; his passion -- his talent. People showed up to see the old punk with a dodgy haircut and an even dodgier dress sense. We all hoped that Lydon (55) hadn't mellowed with age. Even worse, what if this was nothing more than a shoddy pantomime act of sorts? Now there's a nightmare.

But we needn't have worried. Expectations don't mean much to Lydon, it seems. He came, he saw, he spat, and he conquered. Clothes were never his thing, but hey, the baggy white trousers can be forgiven. After all, this is a proper frontman we're dealing with; brave, funny, and never less than commanding throughout. Certainly, Lydon is more than just an engaging entertainer -- he's also a fascinating human being, the kind that doesn't come around too often in this business. Of course, it's probably all just an act, but from where I'm standing, it's pretty damn convincing. The lyrics, the showmanship, the delivery -- effortless from beginning to end.

With 1986's Home, we have one of the finest rock songs of the set, complete with a ferocious riff courtesy of guitarist Lu Edmonds (it turns out Lydon isn't the only powerful member up there). A somewhat rejigged This is Not a Love Song is mesmerising, and by the time we get to the superb Rise, a visibly enthused Lydon is in his element. And so are we. It's tremendous -- his jittery, and at times, enraged vocal, sitting nicely atop those watery guitars and protruding bass lines. He still enjoys a bit of banter, too. Obama (he likes). The Catholic Church (he dislikes). The smoking ban (he hates). It's all up for discussion with Johnny. Just so long as he's the loudest one in the room.

Indeed, PiL aren't just a fantastic band to listen to. Their show (or at least Lydon's colourful antics) makes for a great watch. Granted, some of the songs have a tendency to drag on a bit, but that's a minor quibble in what is otherwise an electric presentation of experimental rock at its finest. Definitely worth the wait. HHHHH

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