THE PUBLIC IMAGE LEAVE THE GLASGOW AUDIENCE FAR FROM DISAPPOINTED
It was a night for not one but two established acts in the history of British music with former Sex Pistols front man John Lydon and his band Public Image Limited returning to Glasgow supported by the former guitarist and singer Brix Smith from Indie legends The Fall.
American Smith met the lead vocalist from The Fall at a gig in Chicago in 1983, and after marrying she became a permanent member of the band on guitars, and wrote some of their most acclaimed work in that period before splitting in 1989 and ultimately leaving the band. She formed Brix and the Extricated where she was joined by one-time members of The Fall but now she is out on her own, with a new record due later in the year. Dressed in bright white tattered jeans and jacket as she takes to the stage, she is a vision to behold, bleached blonde hair reminiscent of a younger Debbie Harry and with music not far off that mark either. Tracks such as Aphrodite, Fast Net, Valley Girl, The Fall’s track Totally Wired and Black Butterfly, the ten track setlist was a perfect warm up for the main act, and with the accompanying band members including Debbie Googe from My Bloody Valentine they made a great sound. The forthcoming album could be worth a listen or three.
Formed in 1978 after the break up of The Sex Pistols, John Lydon joined forces with Jah Wobble, Keith Levene from The Clash and Jim Walker, who answered an ad for a drummer and became Public Image Limited. Although the punk era was not quite dead, the new band was seen as post punk and their musical approach was far more experimental, with references to dub, disco and prog rock. Their first few albums are reckoned to be up there with the most important albums of the generation. Tonight’s setlist would see a handful of these early tracks reworked and given a fresh least of life.
Opening with Religion II, Memories and The Body, Lydon was on top form from the minute he took to the stage. Thanking the audience for making the effort the fill the venue to just over 50% and giving them a big round of applause, the band carried on with Corporate, The Room I Am In and The One before Death Disco. This is a personal tribute from the frontman to his mother who at the time had died of cancer. One of her last requests was for her son to write a song for her funeral. Incorporating her liking of classical music and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake specifically, the track is based around the main riff of the original piece, with a personally desperate lyric written in alongside a thumping looped bass dub. NME magazine ranked it as one of the top tracks of 1979 and it remains a fans favourite to this day.
Disappointed, This is Not a Love Song, and self-titled debut single Public Image closed the first set before the band returned for three more numbers. Shoom, an absolutely fantastic rendition of the Leftfield collaboration with Lydon, Open Up, with the lyrics ‘burn down Tinsletown, burn it down to the ground’ and ending with the 1986 top twenty single Rise, and we were all done.
A great evening of music at the O2, both bands in fine form, and always a treat to see Lydon and his PiL colleagues still knocking them out. Before leaving the stage Lydon promises new music soon, and quips ‘you know what to call me, I answer to everything’. Over the years he has been called many things, but he is nothing if not entertaining.
Review and Photographs by Stephen Wilson