Concert review by Scarlett A. Lee
John Lydon may be best known to most of us for his relatively short stint as Johnny Rotten, lead singer of 70’s U.K. punk band, the Sex Pistols and his later collaboration with Afrika Bambaataa. Despite his early signs of showmanship and vocal range, he is equally famous for his wild antics, as he belted out tunes like Anarchy In The U.K., God Save The Queen, and Holidays In The Sun. After the Sex Pistols disbanded in 1975, John later formed Public Image Limited, or simply PiL in 1978.
It was October 29th, 2012 and I found myself at the House of Blues in San Diego, California. I wondered if the passage of time would mean that we would be seeing a calmer, more gentle version of Mr. Lydon and PiL.
The crowd that gathered was an eclectic bunch, to say the least. There was a mix of aging punkers; some obviously reformed, some still rocking their leather jackets and Doc Martens, mingling with a much younger generation of fans. Many of the younger concertgoers were not even a gleam in their fathers’ eyes in Lydon’s heyday as the punk rock poster child of the 70’s. PiL has been back on the road the past few years, playing festivals like Coachella in 2010. There is no doubt that festival alone had a hand in introducing these twenty-somethings to these icons of the post-punk era.
Lydon’s reputation for being a bit of a rebel-rouser widely precedes him, so I was expecting a late start to the show slated to begin at nine. But much to my chagrin, the crowd started roaring precisely at nine, harkening the bands’ arrival on stage. They started the show with a bang- immediately launching into one of their biggest hits, This Is Not A Love Song. The crowd responded to the high energy song in spades- bopping their heads and singing along. PiL continued to get their fans moving with the songs Deeper Water and Albatross.
One of the more entertaining moments of the show came after the third song, when John singled out a man near the front of the stage and gave him a stern talking to for giving him the finger. Lydon went as far as to advise him on the proper technique, then warned him against trying to distract him while he was performing again. This rant was met with raucous approval from the audience.
The show continued, as if nothing had happened, with the band playing the songs One Drop, Flowers of Romance and Disappointed. These were followed by the political / eco commentary driven Warrior and USLS1 (pronounced USELESS ONE), and Death Disco, a song that Lydon wrote for his mother, who sadly died in 1983 of cancer.
John enthusiastically kept the audience entertained with his distinctive voice and signature Frankenstein-esque dance moves. The band itself, consisting of drummer Bruce Smith, guitarist Lu Edmonds (also from The Damned), and bassist Scott Firth kept the songs tight. The crowd was impressed with Lydon’s vocal range as his performance was almost identical to studio tracks.
The show closed with an encore of three songs Out Of The Woods, their mega-hit Rise, and a cover of the electronic group Leftfield’s song Open Up.
Lydon once said “If you are pissing people off, you know you are doing something right.” Truth be told, I don’t think he pissed anyone off at the House of Blues, but everyone there would agree, he is definitely doing something right.
John Lydon and PiL are showing no signs of slowing down. They are currently wrapping up their U.S. tour and will be touring Europe through the end of Summer 2013 in support of their latest release This Is PiL. I highly recommend you check them out while you can.
You can follow PiL on their social media pages at FaceBook, MySpace and Twitter. You can also get their tour schedule, buy music / merchandise and more at their website at www.pilofficial.com.