THE public image of Public Image Ltd has in its time been one of volatility, hostility and frustrated ambitions, as John Lydon raged hard through grief, prejudice and misunderstanding against a backdrop of periodically challenging relationships with his bandmates.
ABC, Glasgow ****
But since reforming PIL in 2009, he has found an equilibrium with the most consistent line-up in the band’s history. This stability might not sound very sexy or punk but it has and continues to produce the most relentlessly brilliant live sound of Lydon’s career, propelled inexorably by Bruce Smith’s trojan rhythms and Scott Firth’s bass rumble over which experimental guitar hero Lu Edmonds wrangled his stormy improvisations – to jawdropping effect over an epic Flowers of Romance.
Tracks from their (arguably) lesser loved late 80s period were revisited with laser-guided potency, The Body reborn as an industrial funk workout creating a sonic corridor right through to the boisterous, belligerent I’m Not Satisfied from their most recent album, What The World Needs Now.
Lydon, meanwhile, was in liberated vocal form, delivering his distinctive and quite extraordinary throaty punk orations throughout, his testifying bellows rising to an operatic crescendo on the twisted ballet of Death Disco.
On this form, the band could take their hypnotised audience anywhere but, in his contented generosity, Lydon unleashed a salvo of their most popular anthems, including the truly mighty revving riffola of This Is Not A Love Song and an encore of contrasts, from their most perfect taut pop song Public Image to the expansive dance odyssey of Lydon’s Leftfield collaboration Open Up.