Public Image Limited, The Coal Exchange, Cardiff, 2 June 2011

23 Jun

Public Image come on stage, and I’m trying to think who John Lydon reminds me of. My mind goes blank, and I realise, it must simply be that he reminds me of John Lydon.

I got the feeling this gig was all about self expression. Yes, it’s an older crowd, but if they’re mostly a bit too old to do the expressing, (apart from one young, or perhaps slightly older, lady getting her tits out for Johnny on her friend’s shoulders), John Lydon does all the self expression for them, arms waving around, looking around with his constant, familiar stare. His vocal is recognisably his alone. Sicknote’s singer is unusual, and similar, but P.I.L.’s singer is the original, and still the most unique, if that makes sense. Here is a man who holds his head high, and looks to have no regrets – but then what has he done to regret?

I’m sure he knows all the words, but still, there was a lectern with the lyrics (used very infrequently from what I saw). But, I would say, nothing wrong with that. I saw Shaun Ryder at G-Mex at the height of the Mondays’ fame reading lyrics from a sheet.  If you’re too pissed or stoned to remember the words, isn’t that rock’n’roll?

There was no support band, and this too is a rock’n’roll kind of arrogance. The Roses played without a support band on their Second Coming tour, and this was a band who would not support The Rolling Stones when they had barely embarrassed the Top 40. At the end of the day, there isn’t a lot of point in a support band on a tour like this – who would really care?

Saying that, without a support band, to justify their being just the one band, of course P.I.L. felt the need to do a long set, which possibly is not entirely punk rock. And there’s no getting away from it, this was not The Sex Pistols, but it was still a punk gig, with the majority of the band’s earlier songs having a punk feel. I will make no pretence to knowing a great deal of P.I.L.’s back catalogue, but was surprised – impressed – to find that they actually produced around 7 albums. And probably all of pretty good quality I expect. This was a band that shouted and resisted all throughout the 80s, but had far more of an influence than I think they have been given credit for.

Towards the end of the 80s, with everyone jumping on the baggy bandwagon, every band and their collective dogs was claiming to have always had a dance influence. P.I.L. came on to a techno soundtrack, and with a good bass sound – exemplified best in the last song of the main set which certainly got me moving – and a solid beat throughout, here is a band who can genuinely make that claim. And what was everyone taking in the acid house movement? Pills, of course!

There was a good bit of banter throughout the night. Twice Lydon reminded us that “we are all friends here.” You might think this was a sign of paranoia, but come on, let’s face it, I’m sure he’s seen and been amongst enough fights to not be afraid of, and perhaps prefer to see, a few fisticuffs. Archie, my plus one on the night (who had seen The Sex Pistols play Cardiff back in the day) jokingly said perhaps he should throw his pint, but as John told us all later – surely a waste of beer? We were frequently reminded not to vote Tory, or perhaps anyone, but if the answer instead is anarchy, I’m not really so sure. But then again, I’ll freely admit, that, like not knowing P.I.L.’s back catalogue, I also don’t know much about anarchism.

During the encore, with the inevitable “Rise”, I could not resist a bit of pogo-ing down the front, and a bit of a mosh-pit developed. Lydon questioned if there was another town in Wales beginning with “S” which got a few jeers. While he was in Cardiff, I wonder if he could have been tempted to convert from being an Arsenal fan to supporting the Bluebirds? As my Adidas t-shirt stated, “Impossible is Nothing”! To sum up the gig though, I would simply say: excellent.


This review first appeared on Welsh Icons