Gig review: Public Image Ltd at O2 Academy Leeds

PiL at O2 Academy Leeds, October 17 2013
PiL at O2 Academy Leeds, October 17 2013
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Time was when John Lydon would be greeted on stage with a shower of phlegm from angry punks.

These days the only spitting is from the singer himself, gargling between songs before spluttering into a bucket.

He may not miss the drool but he’d certainly like tonight’s audience to be a little more animated.

“Liverpool p***ed all over you lot,” he observes tartly after a tame response to PiL’s first half a dozen numbers. “I’m just saying, other cities have a bit more gusto.”

Not that there’s been any lethargy from the 57-year-old himself up to that point – the howls, the yelps, the growls and the fiercely rolled “r’s” are all there, along with a whole gamut of facial expressions.

The band – Lu Edmonds on guitar and occasional buzuq, Bruce Smith on drums and Scott Firth on bass – sound great as they roar through Deeper Water, Albatross, and Careering as well as an adventurous new arrangement of This Is Not a Love Song and a particularly brutal take on Low Life.

But still it takes a few songs more for this show to reach full intensity. When it does, with Death Disco, Lydon is extraordinary, eye-popping and screaming into the void over a pounding drum beat and harsh metallic guitars.

The encore is decidedly populist and the audience reaction is warmer. After Public Image and Rise, Lydon jokes about the adverts he made for Country Life butter: “Thank you, Dairy Crest. We could all do with a bit of butter. The time has come when I no longer have to eat the product. I think I will lose some weight.”

Open Up, the bass-heavy dance track he co-wrote with Leftfield, concludes tonight’s set on a positive note. “Will you open up, make room for Leeds United FC?” he enquires with a grin. It took a while but Leeds finally did open up to Public Image Ltd.