John Lydon is not a man known for ducking a challenge. The former Johnny Rotten was widely mocked in some quarters for agreeing to front a series of television adverts promoting a brand of butter; Lydon has in turn pointed out that the cash he earned was used to kick-start Public Image Ltd – the band that was always closest to his heart. Supposed punk ideals were never high on his agenda.
The reaction to PiL’s tentative reunion in 2009 was so positive that it led to a new album, This is PiL, and continued live appearances around the world, and the sizable crowd in Glasgow’s ABC tonight – an almost even split of teenage punks and middle-aged blokes – is testament to Lydon’s enduring popularity. The impressive opening song Deeper Water, one of the stand-outs on the recent LP, is proof that this is a band that has come roaring back to life.
“Ready for a spot of entertainment?” snarls Lydon, fixing the crowd with one of his piercing stares. The three man backing band are no slouches, with guitarist Lu Edmonds easily replicating the famously glacial style of Keith Levene, but Lydon is the undisputed star. His raw, emotive vocal style is strong, especially on Death Disco, a brooding lament to his late mother. He keeps the between song chat to a minimum, and the relentless bass-driven PiL sound can edge towards the repetitive in a lengthy set. Regardless, this lean performance is a reminder that PiL can still lay claim to the title of post-punk champs. [Chris McCall]