REVIEW: Public Image Ltd

December 16 @ O2 Academy Leeds

He's had plenty of imitators over the last 30 years but there really is only one John Lydon.

Now back fronting Public Image Ltd, the post-pretty-much-everything group that he founded after the messy demise of the Sex Pistols in 1978, he seems to have relit his creative fire after a long hiatus.

Flanked by a sturdy rhythm section of Bruce Smith and Scott Firth, and the versatile Lu Edmonds on guitar, keyboards and a variety of unusual instruments such as the bouzouk and electric saz, we're promised a two-hour set full of "proper music for proper people".

The opening sequence is certainly stunning. A compelling Public Image is followed by the dubby delights of Careering and Poptones from PiL's 1979 landmark album Metal Box and the band's biggest hit, This Is Not a Love Song.

In between numbers Lydon tries to lubricate his tattered vocal cords by gargling theatrically then spitting it out. "Brandy versus Chloraseptic - I will give them both a go," he says with a throaty chuckle.

By Trials and Tribulations he's whipped himself into a emotional maelstrom. "That was a happy f***ing tune about being born," he observes sardonically afterwards. "Pretty good stuff. My Dad didn't think so - may he rest in peace."

Death Disco burns with a similar intensity before the lighter tribal beats of The Flowers of Romance kick in.

In Warrior Lydon turns his ire on British politicians. "Guy Fawkes was a warrior!" he proclaims. "I'm a warrior! Leeds warriors!"

A set this long inevitably has its lulls but there's no doubting the anger behind the diatribe Religion.

By contrast the encore is almost jolly. In The Sun skips along on a tuneful melodica line, while Rise is simply epic, with Lydon inviting the audience to join in in its chorus of "Anger is an energy".

There's a great deal of life in the old Rotten one yet.

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