PUBLIC IMAGE LTD
Rock City, Nottingham, 23rd June 2022
It's the last date of PiL's UK tour and the crowd have been warmed up nicely by a spirited set from Brix Smith and her all-female band promoting the new album 'Valley of the Dolls'. The main attraction enter the stage and go straight in with the first album polemic Religion II. We're less than ninety seconds in and John Lydon is reprimanding someone recording the moment on his phone.
"Put that f__king thing down and listen to the band!", he tells the bewildered punter. The opener features the now familiar plea from Lydon to the soundman to "turn up the bass" which shakes the room and, no doubt, a few bowels of those who have imbibed too much ale. A might fine take on Memories is next up followed by The Body and Warrior, which is the first of several tracks to feature some sterling work from Lu Edmonds on the electric saz.
A smattering of varying quality tunes follow from the more recent albums released since the band reconvened and then comes the extraordinary Death Disco from 1979 masterpiece Metal Box. A funk-punk howl of anguish, Scott Firth's pounding bass sits underneath Edmonds' chiming guitar workout. Lydon's on top form and seems more focused than on previous tours when he's been somewhat ragged in his approach to song structures and has had his bandmates doing a hell of a lot of nervous eye contact and nods to hold things together.
After a mixture of different era songs we get to highest PiL chart single This Is Not a Love Song from 1983 which has had a radical and welcome live reworking, Edmonds' saz to the fore again. First single and statement of intent Public Image brings the set to a thundering end and a halt for a fag break before the band return for 2015's sweary tribute to Lydon's old man, Shoom. Leftfield collaboration and Hollywood-haranguing Open Up is last but one for the evening and there's a raucous cheer for Bruce Smith's drum intro to the superb Rise, one of PiL's career highlights. "Anger is an energy" the crowd sing along and, when things are wrapped up at the end of this highly entertaining evening, give the band a really appreciative ovation, which Lydon seems quite moved by. There's a lot of love in the house. I heard quite a few people on the way out saying it's the best they've seen the band play and I couldn't disagree. A minor quibble? I'd like to have heard a couple of more 'classic' tunes like Poptones, Flowers of Romance or the epic Ease but that's just me nitpicking. Apparently some studio time is booked so we can look forward to another PiL album.