Public Image Limited - Cardiff Coal Exchange
John Lydon was never one for the easy option. Back in ’76 he poured scorn on a media desperate to ‘cover him in margarine’ and now, 35 years later, he’s back onstage on a venture part-funded through his participation in a lucrative butter advertising campaign. You’re an intelligent person, but disengage your brain momentarily and you’ll quickly find that it’s depressingly easy to toss barbed ‘sell-out’ accusations in his general direction, but let's pause for reflection and consider the facts. Public Image Limited: compared to the Pistols it’s the reunion that no-one was waiting for and yet, rather than cash in and give the world another lucrative glimpse at his pantomime Rotten, Lydon has stuck to his guns. The man has got integrity and we should never forget that. He could have funded this whole project with a Sex Pistols reunion yet evidently felt there was more credibility to be found in advertising a buttery spread on ITV than pulling on the bondage spats and trotting out 'Pretty Vacant' one more time. Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? I pause at the merch desk to buy a T-Shirt and contribute to the cause; it’s the least I can do.
Back to tonight, and it’s an eclectic crowd that have turned out to see the return of Lydon to Wales. There are no protests outside, no candles, hymns nor bibles, just some middle-aged blokes having a quick fag and desperately holding in their paunches. Inside the oak panelled hall the casualties start to mount up well before PiL even hit the stage. Some of these punters look like they haven’t left the house since Sidney's demise and, after a couple of warm lagers, they too are slumping into a comatose state. James Dean Bradfield picks his way gingerly through the bodies and, endearingly, no-one recognises him. Let’s also hear it for the band, who rival the audience for incongruity, particularly guitarist Lu Edmonds who haunts the stage with his electric bouzouki like Ron Moody at his Dickensian best, particularly when 'Flowers of Romance' veers off on a Yiddish stomp tangent.
A PiL show is all about the bass though and even without the manic magic of Jah Wobble there’s a real danger tonight that the historic Coal Exchange will be reduced to rubble by the arsequake frequencies it is subjected to by Scott Firth. 'Let the bass cleanse your soul' advises Lydon during 'Religion' as the volume ebbs closer and closer to danger levels. It’s most effective, however, when harnessed into tight grooves best exemplified by the staccato throb of 'Death Disco', a cathartic early highlight of a 2 hour set, which finds a visibly emotionally raw Lydon screaming 'I watched her slowly die' to the captivated Cardiff audience. Other musical highlights of the evening include the hyperactive fizz of opening number 'Public Image' and the jaw dropping atonality of an incredible, impossible segue between the poptastic 'This is Not a Love Song' and the awkwardly angular 'Poptones'.
There’s, thankfully, no real clamour for 'Anarchy in the UK' from the floor but Lydon still has politics at the fore of his mind. 'Two cunts for the price of one Cardiff,' he cackles before reminding us to 'Never vote Tory, never vote Lib Dem again…and fuck the Labour lot off as well'. Sage advice from one of life’s great survivors that you’d do well to heed. He’s not the only survivor of course and there’s a Diamond Jubilee next year to remind us all of that. God Save The Queen, eh John?