Michael Buckner | Frazer Harrison, Getty Images Now this is a collaboration that…
- Posted on Apr 22nd 2010 10:00AM by Jason Cohen
The bug eyes, spiky hair and vocal wail? Impressively intact. The disgust with politics and church? Present and accounted for. An ego that is right up there with Kanye West? You bet. At the same time, the former Sex Pistols frontman has become a genial presence, not above clichéd pandering ("You are putting Seattle to shame"), and as eager as Bruce Springsteen to engage the crowd in cheers and sing-alongs.
Mostly, he seems happy be fronting this old band, doing, as he put it, "live music played by real human beings! Proper music for proper people!" ("No more f---ing DJs!," he later added, never mind that PiL makes use of a laptop).
He's certainly not doing it for the money, as the Crystal wasn't full, and also wasn't split into two sections like most of the venue's all-age shows. For this show, the under-21 crowd wasn't big enough to need more than a tiny upstairs perch.
Opening with 'This Is Not a Love Song,' the band continued on for two-plus hours of what, with the exception of the more commercial-sounding latter-day tune 'Disappointed' and the inevitable second encore, 'Rise,' often sounded like a single song, from 'Fodderstompf' to 'Tie Me to the Length of That' to 'Public Image,' taken to variations and extremes.
PiL may have been as musically influential as the Sex Pistols, and while two of the members who were part of that -- guitarist Keith Levene, often cited as the inspiration for U2's the Edge, and bassist Jah Wobble -- are long gone, the current lineup is still unimpeachable: a post-punk power trio of guitarist Lu Edmonds (the Damned, the Mekons, 3 Mustaphas 3) and drummer Bruce Smith (Pop Group, the Slits, Rip Rig and Panic) both of whom first joined PiL in 1986, as well as bassist Scott Firth (whose credits include, oddly enough, Steve Winwood and the Spice Girls).
With his eclectic arsenal of instruments, including a banjo he plays with a bow, and what appears to be an electric lute or buzuk, Edmonds in particular furthers PiL's savage sound on his own terms. 'Flowers of Romance' was a particular highlight, with Firth on standup bass and Edmonds on that lute-like axe: a stunning shard of world-beat freak-folk metal-disco. Another standout was the epic, high-volume 'Bags,' from 1986's 'Album.'
"Is that the most you can give us after a set like that?" Lydon snarled before the encores. "You f---ing c---s!" Fortunately for everyone, he hasn't completely mellowed.