Public Image Ltd. - After a surprisingly long hiatus, John Lydon resurrects one of the most pivotal post-punk bands ever. In fact, they may have been most responsible for coining that term with the very different and challenging albums in the late seventies and eighties. So what exactly will happen tonight? I was excited to find out, as was a near-sold 9:30 Club crowd. No openers, just a good long set with many of the key songs from many of their albums. The set list does not appear to vary much from each show and it does appear to be a tight well controlled set. Lydon is in fine voice, once he gets the requested reverb early on. The band is excellent and features the Pop Group's drummer (another early post punk band around the time of early PiL), a more unknown bassist and Lu Edmonds who has worked with PiL, Mekons and was in the Damned for about five seconds (actually longer, but we Damned fans are still bummed about the second album even if isn't as bad as it is disappointing).
The band was excellent and the sound was quite strong tonight. Lu Edmonds brings more of a psychedelic swirl to the songs. He rounds off some of the jagged edges of Keith Levine's early work while still retaining enough of the bite. I would say his style bridges Levine and Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers (especially latter period work). He plays bouzouki some and both he and the bass player have some keyboards going at times. All three do backup vocals at times. The rhythm section was solid and is of course crucial to PiL's sound. Lydon's voice was good, his comments amusing as usual and his political fire was still high in comments and even a few jabs slipping into the songs.
As for the songs, they came off very well. I was enjoying the entire show well enough after the strong opener "Love Song" and then they went into "Chant" and pretty much blew my mind. It is not often you can take a great song from a brilliant album ("Metal Box") and do a better arrangement, but that is what they did. The song was screaming with the vocal interplay and sounded absolutely dangerous. I rarely feel the power and danger in a rock song these days, but this one literally had my jaw dropping and my eyes widening. Stunning. And the closer "Religion" did not lose any of that power. And with a three song encore, the show came to a powerful close. Lydon promised us that we could expect more things from PiL very soon. Good. It's been overdue, I think. This show started as enjoyable and ended as essential.
Quote of the Night: An exchange between me and a guy standing next to me before the show.
"What's with the music stand (by Lydon's mic)? What is this, Chopin? I mean, he's John fucking Lydon.
"Yeah, well it's been 17 years."
"But we don't care about the lyrics. It's John freaking Lydon. He can just make 'em up."
"Maybe, but many other people use them, David Johanssen of the Dolls, Pete Hammill...
"Really? Yeah, but a music stand. I mean. John Lydon. Just make it up."
Plug of the Night: There is an open house for all DC area bloggers at the Goethe Institut at the corner of I and 7th Street in the NW. It is Monday the 17th from 7-9pm. Here is the site and you can contact Ellie Brown for more information... http://goethedc.org/
I would love to attend but I will be out reviewing a guy I saw open for KISS in high school, Leslie West a the Jammin' Java in Vienna, VA. But hopefully they will do another as I do enjoy going to the Goethe for movies and Fringe events.