Last week I was told to stand up or fuck off by John Lydon. I remained seated, just to antagonise him - what's the point of an unriled Lydon?
Yes I accompanied Owen to see his beloved Public Image Limited at Shepherds Bush Empire and as is our wont these days we had tickets in the seated first level - quite tasty ones too, 2nd row on the centre aisle. Rather see something of the stage than straining to see past the heads of the tall sods who always see the same gigs we do.Now to be honest I parted company with PIL after DEATH DISCO although I always enjoyed the singles that were released in the ensuing years especially RISE, THIS IS NOT A LOVE SONG and the hypnotic FLOWERS OF ROMANCE. However Owen was so hyper after seeing them last year at the Electric Ballroom that I agreed to give them a go.
As becomes the legend that he is, there was no support act, just booming reggae tracks which suited us fine! Just after 9pm the lights dimmed as they strolled on, John accompanied by his minder John Rambo, who looks anything but his namesake and who stands at the side of the stage staring fixedly at his charge.
John was in a natty red waistcoat over a white shirt and after a good gargle of brandy with an extravagant gob-out into a handily-placed dustbin he was off! He started off with a thunderous version of THIS IS NOT A LOVE SONG and off we went into a real journey in sound.
It was less of a gig, more of a Sensurround experience with booming bass, thudding drums and Apple computer aural augmentation - oh and John's wailing voice weaving over and under the sound to create something quite hypnotic. My favorite moments were during ...LOVE SONG, TIE ME TO THE LENGTH OF THAT, DEATH DISCO, FLOWERS OF ROMANCE (although I was a bit miffed the drummer didn't do the big drummery bit - I was watching him especially but I assume that was off the Apple), WARRIOR, DISAPPOINTED and RELIGION.
Eat your prison cap out Phil Spector - this is real Wall Of Sound stuff.It was just before WARRIOR that he kicked off at us "lazy sods" who were sitting in the circle and he returned to this subject for the rest of the set - I particularly liked his line "Fuck me I didn't know you could get wheelchairs up in the circle". After CHANT he pointed to the Reserved section and said "Look over there, those are my friends who are standing up... they are real friends... not like you arseholes so fuck off". The fact that most of the reserved section were sat on their arses rather went in the face of Mr. Lydon's argument so we chose to remain seated.
I needed to dash to the wees while the lengthy clappy-clappy between set and encore was going on... only to hear the opening bass line of PUBLIC IMAGE start just as I was in situ - OH YOU BUGGER I said aloud and raced back to catch most of the song (I had 'adjusted my dress' before you ask) and whadya know... the end of the song was greeted by me and Owen giving him a standing ovation. See Johnny, that's all it needed. He followed up with rousing versions of RISE and OPEN UP and was gone, with the promise of an album of new material at the end of the year.Owen's picture captures the atmosphere well... PIL are an experience not forgotten easily.