Anyone who went to the Public Image Limited show expecting to find John Lydon, a.k.a. Johnny Rotten, doing his impression of a state fair oldies band were probably pleasantly surprised. I sure was.---
I imagine I'm not the only one who arrived at The Depot more or less to see Lydon, having never caught one of PiL's performances when they were regular visitors to Utah back in the '80s and early '90s, nor bothering to try to see any of those Sex Pistols reunion tours. I figured this might be my last chance to see the old guy before he packs it in for good.
Judging by the lively show PiL put on Friday, that won't be happening any time soon. Lydon was in fine form, his, um, unique voice ringing clearly through the venue, and his stellar band creating epic sonic excursions that quickly made me realize PiL is easily the more adventurous band on Lydon's resume.
Lydon let just enough of his "Rotten" persona to come through, castigating the crowd to get dancing and at one point calling us "marshmallow heads," whatever those are. He kept most of his vitriol for politicians, though, ranting about America's eight years under George W. Bush, and jokingly dedicating "Flowers of Romance" to a familiar almost-Utahn: "I'd like to dedicate this next tune to Mitt Romney, for all the RIGHT reasons!"
From the opening "This Is Not A Love Song" through an encore that included "Public Image" and "Rise," PiL delivered a bass-heavy version of its so-called "Death Disco" that was consistently entertaining, if not exactly easy listening. Some of the noisier parts threatened to swallow Lydon's vocals, but he was always the center of attention, his spiked blonde hair and black-and-white shirt offering a vivid visual juxtaposed with the PiL banner on the back of the stage. Guitarist Lu Edmonds (long-time of the Mekons) was a wonder, the musical ace who holds PiL's various sonic strands together. And the rhythm section of drummer Bruce Smith and bassist Scott Firth did yoeman's work providing a low-end base for Edmonds to paint on with his jagged riffing.
Among the other highlights: "Memories," "Death Disco," "Warrior" and "Disappointed." And it's hard to imagine anyone at Friday's show, whether hardcore PiL fan or a dabbler like me, walked away disappointed in the least.