I have been going to see PiL for 35 years, because the band is that good. Even though the band was always good, the audience was always bad. Hungry for attention, people wanted to out-punk and out-perform the band. It was as if everybody wanted to be in the show.
The first time I saw PiL was in 1980. During their appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, John Lydon didn’t bother to lipsynch along with the tracks that were playing. Instead, he physically pulled audience members onto the stage set until the band was surrounded by a mob of fans.
I met them at a press conference at La Dome the next day, one day before their concert. The room was filled with the most popular writers of the time, including Craig Lee, Shelly DeCunha (later Mrs Keith Levene), and Belissa Cohen. In 1980 PiL consisted of Jah Wobble, Keith Levene, and Martin Atkins. It seemed to me that no one was listening to PiL explain their philosophy, because the press just wanted to talk about the Sex Pistols. John was having none of it, and I do not blame him. It was a slagging egofest for the press, and John commented, “It’s time to feed the animals.” It was a true Media Circus.
The next night, When PIL played the Olympic, it was a spitfest from the Los Angeles punks, leaving the whole band dripping in swill as they marched through the set until John had enough.
Fast forward to 2015. Thank Goodness they have stopped spitting. That could be considered attempted murder these days. The show started late, thanks to the Hollywood Christmas Parade. Getting anywhere near the venue was a nightmare. I just considered it a pre-party. Doors were scheduled for 8pm. But the show didn’t start until 10pm due to the parking fiascos.
PiL has gone through God knows how many different lineups over the years, and now John Lydon has some new boys up there. As introduced onstage, this incarnation includes “”Jesus Christ standing in for Lu this evening,” “The Archangel Gabriel standing in this night for Bruce,” and “(unintelligible) standing in for Scott.” They definitely have good pedigrees. Lu Edmonds formerly played guitar with the Damned, Bruce Smith played drums for the early punk almost-girl group, The Slits, and Scott Firth has played bass and keyboards for everyone from Elvis Costello to The Spice Girls.
PiL is now a finely tuned machine with John at the pulpit, or the helm of the ship. He mustered on in spite of a nasty case of bronchitis that made his voice a little froggy. The band starting the show strong with Double Trouble (Wot, you fucking nagging again? About wot? Wot? Wot?) and plowed through a set including audience favorite, This is Not a Love Song. After a strong encore of Public Image and Rise, a small party was held at the Record Parlor where John, his wife Nora, the band, and his manager and friend Rambo danced the night away.
Elise Thompson contributed to this post