TVD Live Shots:
Public Image Ltd at
the O2 Forum Kentish Town, 6/18

Public Image Ltd in London, are you fucking kidding me? How did this ex-pat get to be so fortunate? The band that invented post-punk returns, and they have plenty left to say.

Never one to shy from controversy, John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) and his band tore through a brilliant 17-song set celebrating the band’s rollercoaster of a catalog. I may be a bit biased as the Sex Pistols are one of my all-time favorite bands, but this isn’t about the Pistols; it’s not even about punk rock; it’s about when Johnny Rotten found the creative freedom to do what he was meant to—change the world yet again. PiL is that vehicle.

The venue is the legendary Forum in Kentish Town, North London. A proper venue for the capacity crowd, full of old and new punks, hipsters, mods, and not surprisingly, a new, younger generation who might be late to the party. They are catching the band riding a wave—backed up by Lydon’s hand-picked band of misfit, musical, delicate geniuses featuring Bruce Smith (drums), Scott Firth (bass), and Lu Edmonds (guitar).

They not only lay down the beats and grooves effortlessly for Mr. Lydon, but they add character with their oddball motions in between their deadpan deliveries. After several PiL personnel changes over the years, he now considers the lineup since 2009 to be “the proper PiL.”

You would never guess Lydon is 66 years old because he’s had the same mannerisms from his early days as a Pistol. It’s remarkable to address how his views have shifted over the years, from his views on the Queen to his surprising support of former President Trump. “Don’t become entrenched in one opinion and get stuck there forever,” Lydon was quoted as saying during the lockdown.

Maybe it’s ironic, or perhaps that’s the punk attitude in its purest sense; not giving a fuck. Lydon’s 2020 book I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right brings these thoughts together in one place through anecdotes and his views on life and current events. 

The setlist pulled equally from What the World Needs Now, 9, and the juggernaut Metal Box wrapped with “This is Not a Love Song” and “Public Image.” Lydon immediately snarked to the crowd, “make a little bit more noise, and we’ll be back in five.”

Of course, the elephant in the room is the Danny Boyle-directed limited series Pistol, which recently began streaming on Disney+. Lydon has been very vocal about his dislike of the project claiming that he was left out of the ultimate decision to create the show, and this night was no different.

He dedicated a record number of “fuck yous” to Mr. Boyle in the form of an anger as energy performance of “Shoom.” Lydon’s collaboration with Leftfield, “Open Up,” was up next, and the night wrapped with their biggest “hit,” the classic “Rise.”

I can’t say enough about how good these guys sounded. They were incredibly tight, sharp, and full of the same attitude needed to show how these songs easily stand the test of time. Even though Lydon seemed to have a sinus issue this night, he powered through and hit almost every note in his arsenal. I was buzzing into the next day with Metal Box on eleven, a brilliant night for a brilliant band.

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