No matter how many years pass, John Lydon remains ready to provoke. The Public Image Ltd. singer took the stage clad in baggy prison stripes, his head half-shaved and half-spiked, quickly admonishing an aspiring heckler before launching into “Double Trouble,” one of the more propulsive tracks off their new album What the World Needs Now. The band kept the dub-touched bass lines and razor-edged guitars tight, while Lydon bellowed, roared, growled and ululated. The back-stabber’s anthem “Disappointed” especially showed off his vocal contortionism.
The distinctly over-35 crowd was enthusiastic, but needed a little warming up. Lydon gestured at himself on the monitors hanging over the adjacent bowling alley: “Look, I’m a goldfish!” And then he chortled, “Keep flinging your balls at my image. It’s what every strapping young boy wants to do.” He reached back to their debut, Public Image: First Issue for the explosive guitars and pogo beat of “Public Image” and turned the contemptuous “Religion” into a 10-minute demonstration of what punk rock is and stands for, while the funky bass of “This Is Not a Love Song” turned the concert into a club.
By the time PiL closed with “Rise,” the crowd was on its feet and bopping like it was the last days of Ronald Reagan. Even the guy in the Bernie Sanders cap, who had spent most of the show sitting on one of those little folding chairs grandparents bring to parades, was on his feet and shaking it. ★★★★✩
Photos by Erik Kabik / ErikKabik.com