PUBLIC IMAGE LTD – CHALK, BRIGHTON 14.6.22
Public Image Ltd (known as ‘PiL’) rolled into Chalk in Brighton tonight on date seven of their 13 concert June 2022 tour. Brix Smith was booked as special guest for eight of the concerts, but sadly Brighton was not one of the selected days – this is a real shame. Our gig was the last of the 5 where she wasn’t available. We therefore had no support band whatsoever! You would have thought that someone might have given a handful of local bands, of a similar ilk, the chance to support the post-punk legends for the Dublin, Belfast, Southampton, Frome and Brighton concerts!
PiL as everyone knows are fronted by John Lydon who in another life was infamously the Sex Pistols frontman, going under the banner of Johnny Rotten on the account of his rotten teeth, as legend has it.
I was present at PiL’s first ever Brighton concert which took place at the Top Rank Suite (now PRYZM) on 2nd November 1983. They did a jolly decent rendition of ‘Anarchy In The UK’ I seem to recall. It was to be another 29 years until they returned to Brighton, when they filled the Concorde 2 on 15th and 16th August 2012. The following year on 27th June, they rocked on up at the Dome, and a year later went back to the Concorde 2 on 15th June 2016. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, but sadly there hasn’t been a new studio album for nearly 7 years, their last being ‘What The World Needs Now…’ which saw the light of day on 4th September 2015.
It’s fair to say that PiL now has a stable line-up, as it has been the same John Lydon (vocals), Bruce Smith (drums), Scott Firth (bass) and Lu Edmonds (guitar) since 2009. So with this new tour would the guys be debuting any new material? Let’s see shall we………..
We knew that Brix Smith wasn’t appearing tonight, but there was a certain amount of conjuncture amongst the sold out crowd tonight as to whether there was a support act or not and if there was, then what time would they be on and more importantly, what time would PiL grace the stage. It’s fair to say that there was some mix-messaging going on. Chalk advertised doors open at 6pm and PiL said the venue was opening at 7pm. On arrival the staff were under the impression that PiL were due on stage at 8pm. It came to 8pm and nothing. Some fans had been manning their highly prized close to the stage positions for almost two hours and the toilets were starting to beckon.
At exactly 8:15pm the guys finally appeared on the ample wide stage and they were going to entertain, nay preach, to those gathered herein for the next 98 minutes.
“This is your life! Welcome to Brighton” Lydon exclaimed and they were off. I was rather taken aback how well he looked and even dapper in this chosen clobber. I guess he had to be, as he was under the continual watchful eye of his manager/best mate/chum ‘Rambo’, who stationed himself at the front of stage right (our left). He ‘marched’ all night long with his lips pouted as he was in the PiL grove, whilst casting a continual eye on John and the punters.
Guitarist Lu (stage right) was unusually stationed as far back as drummer Bruce who was in the normal central rear stage position, complete with Roland drum pads. Scott on bass (and very occasional keyboard) was further forward, but no-one was outshining the PiL curator Lydon – it’s very much his show! PiL is HIS baby, the one thing that HE is most proud of, more than the Pistols. He preached to us from his central pulpit, with the lyrics resting on the lectern, which thus began……..
“Stained glass windows keep the cold outside,
While the hypocrites hide inside,
With the lies of statues in their minds,
Where the Christian religion made them blind,
Where they hide,
And prey to the God of a bitch spelled backwards is dog,
Not for one race, one creed, one world,
But for money,
‘Religion’ has always been one of my favourite PiL tracks, so that was a great start, although it did have a down tempo feel to it, but this was more than compensated by Lydon’s heartfelt lyrics. I was bemused by Scott’s choice of electric upright bass for the tune as it’s just like a thin stick with strings, but boy does it pack a punch. I’m not sure what brand it was, but it could well have been a Ned Steinberger design.
The lighting at Chalk tonight was great and everyone throughout the cavernous venue would have clearly been able to watch them with ease. It was a photographer’s dream. Talking of which, there were thankfully only two of those in attendance this evening, ours (being Cris Watkins) and our mate Andy, who tonight was shooting for someone else. The sound this evening wasn’t too bad either, with the slight down-in-the-mix fractionally muffled feel being adjusted after the opener.
When I wasn’t absorbed by gawping at Scott’s bass and making concert notes on my phone, I was, as you would expect, immediately drawn to Lydon, who I was scrutinising and enjoying at the same time. Whilst watching him, I noted for the first time that his mannerisms somewhat reminded me of Mr Bean, and that was he aware that he was possibly slightly (and slowly) becoming a caricature of himself. There were many faces pulled that always make us laugh and thus endears him to us in a Lee Evans kind of way.
Track two was ‘Memories’ from ‘Metal Box’, which had a more uplifting feel and thus feet were tapping right across the room and Scott had transferred to the normal bass. ‘The Body’ from their 1987 ‘Happy?’ album and ‘Warrior’ (the first of a trio of cuts from the 1989 ‘9’ album) followed. ‘Warrior’ being a funky ditty which highlights Lu’s expert control of the not often seen saz musical instrument. The saz or bağlama is a long-necked stringed lute which is plucked and is often used in Ottoman classical music, Turkish folk music, Turkish Arabesque music, Azerbaijani music, Kurdish music, Armenian music as well as being utilised in parts of Syria, Iraq and the Balkan countries.
Song five was ‘Corporate’, which can be located on their last studio album, 2015’s ‘What The World Needs Now…’. This gave us the best demonstration on the night of the wonderful PiL signature rumbly floor shaking, head pummelling bass. One of our party headed off to the bar to enquire about ear protection as a result. Even the mighty Jah Wobble would have been impressed with this.
2012’s ‘The Room I Am In’ and 2015’s ‘The One’ came and went and then it was time for the epic ode to Lydon’s mother’s passing, the one and only ‘Death Disco’ single, which was remixed and renamed ‘Swan Lake’ for the decade defining ‘Metal Box’ album. Tonight it was again epic and the fans danced away! Lydon’s father would get his own ode later in the set, but it’s not in the same vein.
The fans stopped dancing after ‘Death Disco’ and were served mid-set fillers ‘U.S.L.S. 1’ (the second of the night from their 1989 ‘9’ album) – which was atmospheric, especially Lu’s Gibson guitar, which sounded not too unlike The Edge’s early U2 work – and 1986’s ‘Bags’ which segued into ‘Chant’ from ‘Metal Box’, and then we were all singing “What friends are for?” for the final number from the ‘9’ album, ‘Disappointed’.
Coming to the tailend of the main set, we were treated to a couple of tracks that should never be dropped from a PiL gig, namely ‘This Is Not A Love Song’ (from 1984 ‘This Is What You Want… This Is What You Get’ album) and ‘Public Image’ (from 1978 ‘Public Image First Issue’ album). I swear I saw Scott play a couple of notes on the keyboard in front of him on ‘Love Song’. My highlight, and many others present, would have undoubtedly have been ‘Public Image’. It was goosebumps and moshing time! In fact I would controversially divulge that the song in my eyes is Lydon’s best even tune, even more so than any Pistols tracks.
Now this leads us nicely onto the Sex Pistols, as the quartet left the stage for a three minute fag break between 9:32pm and 9:35pm, only to return and John informed us that he wrote the following number, the wonderfully bass heavy ‘Shoom’ (from 2015 ‘What The World Needs Now…’ album) as a requiem to his father. It starts….
All sex is bollocks’
He then couldn’t help himself, in the same breath, attacking Danny Boyle and his FX ‘Pistol’ six part mini-series which is a dramatisation of Steve Jones book ‘Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol’. It was going so well up until that point. The words “toys” and “pram” came to mind. Thanks goes out to Danny Boyle for attending my partner, Jordan Mooney’s funeral.
The penultimate number this evening was the Leftfield Lydon classic ‘Open Up’, which was obviously tonight all Lydon and no Leftfield, thus it was a heavy version without the pumping dance beat
They closed with the timeless ‘Rise’ with its classic earworm lyrics, which include “I could be wrong, I could be right, I could be black, I could be white” and “They put a hot wire to my head, ‘Cos of the things I did and said” and of course “Anger is an energy”, which would make a great book title wouldn’t it.
So referencing my question earlier on about whether PiL would be debuting any new material this evening, well we now have the answer…No! However all is not lost PiL fans as Lydon’s final statement to the happy punters was “We are recording a few songs soon and will be back in Brighton”.
John Lydon (vocals)
Bruce Smith (drums)
Scott Firth (bass)
Lu Edmonds (guitar)
Public Image Ltd setlist:
‘Religion’ (from 1978 ‘Public Image First Issue’ album)
‘Memories’ (from 1979 ‘Metal Box Second Edition’ album)
‘The Body’ (from 1987 ‘Happy?’ album)
‘Warrior’ (from 1989 ‘9’ album)
‘Corporate’ (from 2015 ‘What The World Needs Now…’ album)
‘The Room I Am In’ (from 2012 ‘This Is PiL’ album)
‘The One’ (from 2015 ‘What The World Needs Now…’ album)
‘Death Disco’ (from 1979 ‘Metal Box Second Edition’ album (as ‘Swan Lake’) & ‘Death Disco’ single)
‘U.S.L.S. 1’ (from 1989 ‘9’ album)
‘Bags’ (from 1986 ‘Album’ album)
‘Chant’ (from 1979 ‘Metal Box Second Edition’ album)
‘Disappointed’ (from 1989 ‘9’ album)
‘This Is Not A Love Song’ (from 1984 ‘This Is What You Want… This Is What You Get’ album)
‘Public Image’ (from 1978 ‘Public Image First Issue’ album)
‘Shoom’ (from 2015 ‘What The World Needs Now…’ album)
‘Open Up’ (from 1993 ‘Open Up’ single) (Leftfield Lydon tune)
‘Rise’ (from 1986 ‘Album’ album)
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