Public Image Ltd at Grand Central last night was everything I expected it to be, but in the best possible way. The crowd was unsurprising- primarily 30-50 year olds, a few decked out punks, (mohawks, black nails- the whole shebang), a cluster of 20-something year olds, and a handful of geeked out teenagers. No matter which category you fell under, you were there for PiL- no more no less. Unlike many shows in Miami, the social aspect was just a plus rather than the driving force for being there. It was purely about the music, and experiencing all that is John Lydon.
When you see pictures or viseoa of John Lydon, (or Johnny Rotten) he seems like a thing of fiction, so far from our world and yet so incredibly close to it. He’s wild, unruly, and unpredictable. Though he can say things that don’t boil over well with quite everyone, there’s no denying that he may just be one of the most genuine people you’ll ever see on a stage or in an interview. And it’s that overt honesty and lack of regard to the rules or standards put in place by, well…anyone, that makes him so exhilarating to see live. On stage he’s as comfortable as ever, maybe even too comfortable- blowing snot out of each nostril and spitting when he needed to. He kept a bottle of bourbon near, and would constantly gargle it and spit it out into a clear bucket kept by the drum platform- “Better than mouthwash!” he claimed.
If you played PiL to a five year old and told them to dance, their moves would probably be extremely similar to those of John Lydon himself. Completely unhinged, he grooved in his own trademarked way, flopping and waddling about the stage. He transformed as songs passed, entering different characters that suited the lyrics and subject matter. He’d pout at the crowd and and had eye contact that was rock solid. If there’s one thing that John Lydon does best, it’s connect. There’s no shying away from what someone says when it’s being operatically shouted in your face, with the most uninterrupted gaze staring you down. As much as we all love him, there’s no point in pretending that at one point or another (or multiple times) we were completely intimidated by his presence. He’s just a whole other force of nature, and has absolutely no fear of people- or at least that’s what you take away from his behavior. He’d lean towards the crowd and scowl away, holding an unflinching stare that proved how ridiculously present he was.
Each song PiL performed felt like its own little epic, the manner in which the lyrics were howled had a poetic ease about them that made every word as profound as ever, resonating about the venue. There’s a sincerity in those words that can only come through experience, and a keen awareness of the world and all that’s wrong with it. In an extended version of “Religion”, Lydon took the theatrics up a notch, dropping to his knees and waving his arms in the air, taking on the character of a fearful school boy hiding from the priests. “Lock up your children, the priests are coming” he wailed to the audience desperately, as the bass was turned up to “cleansify our souls”.
After a short break PiL came back for an encore and finally broke into “Rise”, predictably the most anticipated song of the night. It was probably the first time the audience really sang along to the lyrics, presumably because Lydon is just too hard to keep up with. But as we all belted “ANGER IS AN ENERGY” over and over again, He grabbed his mic stand and hovered it over the crowd, dropping it low enough for fans to yell into the microphone. Which, can we just think about for a second? Sharing a mic with John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten aka music legend?! Pretty awesome if you ask me. As the band left the stage, Lydon said whole heartedly, “We love what we do. Thank you for sharing that with us”. No Johnny, thank you.
“This Is Not a Love Song”
“Out of The Woods”
“Open Up” (Leftfield cover)