ART and commerce briefly became comfortable bedfellows when John Lydon ploughed the proceeds from his infamous Country Life butter ads into reforming his beloved Public Image Ltd and recording a new album.
This Is PiL picks up where he left off 20 years ago – that is, on the fascinating fringes where punk, dub and funk meet, a place few occupy with such elan as PiL.
New bassist Scott Firth took a prominent role in the mix, providing a hefty foundation over which guitarist Lu Edmonds unleashed controlled chaos. Lydon, meanwhile, was committed, immersed and menacing as so few frontmen are, delivering an almost operatic, possessed performance.
Over a persistently thrilling two-hour set, the band cherrypicked all manner of wonderment from their catalogue. New tracks such as set-opener Deeper Water rumbled forth with the same inexorability as old favourites such as Albatross, while they kept the off-kilter party rolling with the flinty 80s funk of The Body, the quirkily catchy Reggie Song, the springy positivity of One Drop, eminently danceable Warrior and the remarkable proto-house danse macabre of Death Disco, with Edmonds picking out the melody of Swan Lake over and over again.
Even so, there was fuel left in the tank for a storming encore, kicking off with the great cathartic celebration of Public Image. The crowd took up the chant “anger is an energy” on the anthemic Rise, before the band co-opted Leftfield’s electro behemoth Open Up for the pumping finale.