Fibbers in York is fit to burst tonight, as an old skool mob arrives en masse to watch the legendary Public Image Ltd. (PiL) put on a solid and sweaty show.
Anyone asking "Who’s this PiL, then?" is either best avoided in the hope of their quick return to whatever Gen-Y self-centric task that was previously keeping them occupied, or commiserated for having missed the collective who helped to pioneer a style of popular music termed Post-punk - difficult as it is to imagine a band of this degree having gone unnoticed. Vocalist John Lyndon played a major part in developing the new genre,just as he had with the prior Punk movement; alongside bassist Jah Wobble, guitarist Keith Levene and drummer Jim Walker, PiL created a sound quite different to Punk however, and one which quickly earned them a fan base that, like Lydon to PiL, remains fully intact today.
It’s a somewhat shinier and more mellow Lydon who takes to the stage this evening, and together with band members who may not be the original line-up and yet integral to PiL for some time now, they deliver a polished set including a handful of tracks from their latest and 10th studio album 'What the World Needs Now', as well as plenty of golden oldies which very much pleased a crowd of a similar ilk. It was all about PiL tonight, with no warm up act required for an outfit with enough in their kitbag to fill a two hour set all by themselves; you would certainly expect as much, with albums now into the double figures and collectively spread over five decades.
Lydon’s vocals have always set him apart and whether down to his actual sound or choice of lyrics – or both – he seems to have punters hypnotized and hanging on every word. He sings (if, in fact, this is classed as singing) of all sorts, his droning vocals erring toward the hopeful, the base thumping along heavily behind him and together, the noise emanating creates a sea of wall to wall head-nodders. Many songs played tonight are much longer than your average tune, at times the set resembling more of a jam session as each ten minute offering appeared to roll into the next. It is extremely clear that, some forty years on, PiL retain their unique vibe; tracks such as 'Warrior' and 'This is Not a Love Song' were amongst the older well received numbers, and 'Double Trouble' from their long player released in September proved the original sound and lyrical wit live on.
Lydon is still just a little bit cool, whether singing or bantering. Perhaps less threatening in appearance than once over, there is still plenty which hints at a bad boy punk past. He appears a friendly chap and remains engaged with the crowd throughout the evening, except for times when we were asked to "chat amongst yourselves" whilst a bass guitar was swapped for a double bass, or a minute’s pause was required by Lydon to simply chill for a moment – something which was nigh on impossible in a room struggling to generate the necessary air-con, Fibbers perhaps not the best choice of venue for a band who was always going to draw in the numbers. It was a minor miracle everybody made it through the show without the loss of clothes; Lydon did express he envisioned leaving York a few pounds lighter, thanks to this evening’s gig. Most of the crowd would have been thinking the same, no doubt.
It’s safe to say, one of the north’s lesser famed musical cities still yearns for high-end live entertainment, if tonight is any measure. Unfortunately, this two hour set is over all too quickly, Lydon and friends opting for Rise as the cherry on top of this stellar performance by a still highly popular band.