Public Image Limited @ Fibbers, York 22/09/15

by ChristopherNosnibor
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on 24 September 2015 in Live
Rating 8/10

While for many, The Sex Pistols stands as the definitive punk band, Public Image Limited always offered something more challenging and innovative in musical and artistic terms. Of course, there’s no escaping John Lydon’s whining sneer as being integral to the sound of both bands, and no doubt many have followed his post-Pistols career on account of it. Scanning the venues on the itinerary for this tour in promotion of their latest album, it soon becomes apparent that York’s 450-capacity Fibbers is the smallest by some margin, and it’s so rammed and so hot it feels like they’ve sold it out twice over.

It’s one of those shows that could have gone either way: with such an ardent, hardcore crowd, and so many years in the business as agent provocateurs, Public Image – and of course Lydon in particular – don’t really need to try too hard. It’s particularly pleasing to see just how hard they do work: Lydon is ever the entertainer, but avoids total caricature pantomime to deliver a performance that’s primarily focused on playing the songs than ranting or bantering.

Of course, he does a bit of both: between brandy gargles and slugs of water, he remarks on the heat in the venue (and he’s a man who’s played a fair few small, sticky venues in his time). We’re all feeling it, and I can’t recall ever having seen so many people stagger to the back for air, or even making their way outside, and these old punks are no wusses. Set-wise, there is a smattering of newer tracks, with new album What the World Needs Now well represented by snarling openers ‘Double Trouble’ and ‘Know Now’, but there’s no shortage of material culled from their extensive back catalogue, with ‘This is Not a Love Song’ and ‘Disappointed’ appearing early in the set and contributing to the rising temperature.

The sound is pleasingly clear, and the volume decent (loud enough to mask any chatter, but without loss of sound quality or risk of damage to hearing), with the booming dub bass and Lydon’s crisp diction carrying right to the back of the auditorium. ‘Poptones’ and ‘Death Disco’ go down a treat, and the ways the band’s sound is built on endlessly cyclical bass motifs is highlighted variously, although rarely more abundantly on ‘Warrior’ as they brought the main set to a close.

Having towelled down, they return for a blistering encore, dominated by a thunderous 12- minute rendition of ‘Religion’ followed by – of course – ‘Public Image’ and, finally, ‘Rise’. Culminating in a Lydon-led audience chant of ‘anger is an energy’, the power – and the perspiration – flowed.


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