Public Image Ltd. at Upstate Concert Hall (10/12/2012)

14 Oct

Above: My ticket with the band’s name presented incorrectly…

I had no idea of what to expect for a PiL show.  For starters they are a band that I never thought I would see live, let alone from ten feet away.  Granted John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) is the only member of the original band, but the revamped PiL is by no means a collection of slouches.  The current line-up is Lu Edmonds on guitar (The Damned/The Mekons), musician/producer Scott Firth on bass and Bruce Smith on drums (The Pop Group).

John Lydon was much more humorous and good-natured than I expected.  As he entered the venue a fan asked him for an autograph to which he replied “Don’t ask me for an autograph before the show.  What are you a fucking moron?”  He followed that up with “Ask me after the show.  I’ll sign your underwear.”  He thanked his audience before beginning the set, “Thank you very much to all of you that came out tonight, and for those of you that didn’t come out, thank you too.”  He only dropped about two dozen F-bombs (not including lyrics) and a couple of C-words; some were frankly deserved as they were aimed at wasted hecklers and inept lighting technicians.

Aside: I myself was standing at the rail next to a group of 50-something women, one of which was supremely wasted.  At one point said woman hopped a little banister and then sat on stage so that a friend could take a picture of her with Lydon in the background.  PiL’s stage manager, who looked uncannily like a stache-less Hitler with a necktie and UFO pants, gave her a forceful shove off stage.  I believe he referred to her as both a “slag” and a “c–t” in the same sentence.  It was nice to get an authentic show of cockney aggravation.

The set began with “This Is Not a Love Song” and a few lyrics in it was clear that Lydon hadn’t lost any of his quirky magnetism.  Between screamed lyrics he shimmy-shuffled back and forth and gave the audience his crazy eyes.  A new single “Deeper Water” followed with Lydon coming as close to traditional singing as I have ever heard him come with a brooding pop back-current.  Excitement tore threw me (and most patrons over 50) when the familiar bass of “Albatross” began some moments later.  I thoroughly enjoyed all 10+ minutes of it, bobbing my head to the beat.  Lydon’s final cry of “Only the lonely” sounded far less shrill and tortured Roy Orbison and more like that of a bitter veteran of the industry.

During “One Drop” he began gargling a dark liquid from a small bottle near the drum kit, rinsing with water and spitting into a nearby bucket which became somewhat of a mystery throughout the duration of the song.  As he put the bottle to his lips between songs a fan yelled “Don’t do it, Johnny!”  Lydon lowered the bottle and grinned, “It’s the best mouthwash in the world.  Five-star cognac.”  He gargled, spit and shot snot-rockets at regular intervals for the remainder of the show.

There were no sleepers on the setlist, familiar or not.  “Flowers of Romance” and “Warrior” were particularly strong, but it was “Religion” that could have literally blown some fans away.  The volume was already high and midway through the song Lydon told fans that the bass was Satan and that they should immerse their souls in it to wash them clean of religion.  With each anti-prayer he asked to have the bass turned up to the point where I could feel my diaphragm rattling uncomfortably in my abdomen.  Though entirely unpleasant from a visceral standpoint, it was spectacular from a live perspective.  Unfortunately I was only a few feet away from the right speaker and so my chances of contracting tinnitus likely increased tenfold.  “Religion” ended at about the hour and a half mark and the band left the stage.

After five or so minutes of an over-excited fan yelling “Make some noise, ya c–ts!” PiL returned to the stage for an encore.  They began with the last song off of their latest album which was obviously unfamiliar to most, but didn’t suppress any of the crowd’s pent up energy followed by “Rise” off of 1986’s Album.  The last song was a cover of London’s mid-90s house outfit Leftfield’s “Open Up” which, for whatever reason, seemed to be a perfect coda for the evening.

If you are wondering if Public Image Ltd. still has “it,” I can assure you that they do.

The Setlist

1) “This Is Not a Love Song”

2) “Deeper Water”

3) “Albatross”

4) “One Drop”

5) “Flowers of Romance”

6) “Disappointed”

7) “Warrior”

8) “U.S.L.S. 1”

9) “Reggie Song”

10) “Death Disco”

11) “Religion”


12) “Out of the Woods”

13) “Rise”

14) “Open Up” (Leftfield cover)

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