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Public Image review: A PiL show is magical, biblical and confrontational

PUBLISHED: 09:49 07 June 2018

Public Image Ltd headlining The LCR in Norwich on 6th June 2018. Photo: Jan Roberts

Public Image Ltd headlining The LCR in Norwich on 6th June 2018. Photo: Jan Roberts

Jan Roberts

“I give everything live. There is human wreckage when I perform. Little pieces of me are torn off.” Those were John Lydon’s provocative words in an interview ahead of this gig and boy did punk’s ultimate rebel deliver on that pledge at The LCR last night.

Public Image Ltd headlining The LCR in Norwich on 6th June 2018. Photo: Jan RobertsPublic Image Ltd headlining The LCR in Norwich on 6th June 2018. Photo: Jan Roberts

John also spoke about the PiL live experience being “like a church without religion” and, aptly, it’s a very ministerial-looking John that takes to the stage in a baggy black and white pinstripe ensemble complete with what could almost pass for a dog collar.

He carries a lyric book with him and, looking through small glasses on the end of his nose, carefully places it on a music stand ready to deliver the sermon of all sermons from his makeshift alter.

John is clearly not well, suffering from flu he resorts to telling the engrossed crowd that he’s going to do his best and does just that, powering through a 90-minute set with medicinal swigs of dark brown liquid for between-song lubrication.

Public Image Ltd headlining The LCR in Norwich on 6th June 2018. Photo: Jan RobertsPublic Image Ltd headlining The LCR in Norwich on 6th June 2018. Photo: Jan Roberts

That not to say his tongue needs loosening. He may be 62 but this is a full-on volatile and compelling mass at John’s church which is lapped up by his gathered congregation. He comes across like some foul-mouthed warped priest, rolling his Rs with demonic venom, yodelling, warbling and gurning while all the time being accompanied by a pulsating backing track that deviates from tribal drum and bass to full-on industrial punk rave.

The big hits all come late in the set, This Is Not A Love Song tumbles straight into the euphoric Rise, during which John seems to laugh - he is a big softy after all! Following a short encore for a cigarette, Public Image leads straight into Open Up, one of the best singles of the early 1990s which he originally recorded with Leftfield. It sounds absolutely immense 25 years on.

A PiL show is magical, biblical and confrontational, but at the front and above all else is John Lydon. Showman John, bonkers John. Giving everything John with a sore throat that probably reduced him to spitting blood, this is punk, this is giving it all and this is what John Lydon still does better than the rest.

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