Public Image Limited - Bristol, O2 Academy - 20th July 2010 Print
Written by David Whistance   
Tuesday, 27 July 2010 05:10

PIL_Poster596After an eighteen-year wait to witness Public Image Limited live, I arrived in Bristol with more than a little trepidation. Would Johnny and the boys live up to my expectations or would they be just another band of bloated fifty something's trying to recapture former glories?  Arriving at the venue itself, we are greeted by a gathering of misguided protesters rallying against P.I.L's forthcoming gig in Tel Aviv, which as John Lydon states during the gig, "If anyone thinks Johnny Rotten supports Apartheid then they really are stupid cunts".

 

Taking to the stage the band are greeted by the capacity crowd like returning heroes, joining John Lydon in the current line up are former PIL members Lu Edmonds, Bruce Smith along with new member bass player Scott Firth.  And as the opening notes of 'This Is Not a Love Song' ring out, you suddenly get the feeling you are about to witness something special.  After attending a number of Sex Pistols reunion gigs since their reformation in 1996 it was painfully obvious during tonight's performance that whilst every Pistols gig I attended was a blast, it is Public Image Limited where John Lydon's heart lies.

 

Every note he sings, every move he makes, he does with passion in his heart as he delivers a mesmerizing performance, displaying a charisma and charm so often hidden behind his Johnny Rotten persona.  Throughout tonight's performance John Lydon is mesmeric as he moves, twists, and contorts with every word.

 

During the two-hour plus show the crowd is treated to an incredible repertoire of songs from the bands back catalogue, 'Albatross', 'Poptones' 'Death Disco' are all received like old friends.  It is when the band pull out all the stops to deliver a sublime version of 'Religion' that I feel like I've just witnessed something not so much special as....incredible, even more so when I hear some die hard fans around me stating that it was the best version of the song that they had heard.

What shocked me at those fans also, was the variation of ages that were here to witness tonight's gig. Along with the assortment of old school punks were a large amount of teenagers, whether or not they were here tonight after raiding their parents record collection I cannot answer, but what I did observe was the way every member of the audience was simply blown away by the musicianship on display.  I could not write this review without mentioning the musicianship of the band, featuring former members of The Damned/The Doomed and ahem...The Spice Girls.  Particular mention must go to guitarist Lu Edmonds who delivered a mesmerising performance even taking the focus from the outlandish behaviour of their leader.

 

Leaving the stage after nearly two hours I felt more than fulfilled by tonight's show.  Yet the band weren't finished yet as they returned for an explosive encore featuring an awesome version of 'Public Image' that even got the knuckleheads behind me (who continually shouting  'Sex Pistols' all night) pogoing. Childhood memories come flooding back as the band continue with a perfect rendition of my personal favourite 'Rise' before ending with Johnny's Leftfield collaboration 'Open Up'. Oh and before I forget it, special mention also to the guy/s on the sound desk, I don't think I've attended a gig in the Academy with such a great sound throughout. 

 

As the capacity crowd spills out onto the Bristol streets, I don't think I've heard such positive comments after a gig for a long while.  After all it's not about Great Britain it's about Great Music.