MANHATTAN, NY—British punk pioneer John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) told me in an interview that, “On this planet, we’re all in this together,” and his Public Image Ltd (PiL) show at Hammerstein Ballroom on October 13 was no exception to that philosophy.
After the socially active, former Sex Pistol’s frontman reminded fans that it’s election season, he let them know that they were now “entering the PiL Zone.” Once inside, the band and audience united in a hypnotizing exploration of sound and meaning. Lydon’s drone-like vocals guided the audience through songs from This Is PiL, the band’s first album in 20 years, as well as old favorites.
PiL opened with 1983’s “This Is Not A Love Song,” about corporate America, before Lydon wailed about “sowing the seeds of discontent” in “Deeper Water,” and being “ageless” in “One Drop.”
The mesmerizing set was interrupted only a few times when Lydon checked in to let the crowd know that its “company is appreciated.” PiL also performed “Reggie’s Song,” about a friend of Lydon’s, “Albatross,” “Rise,” “Disappointed,” “Death Disco,” “Bags/Chant,” “Religious,” “Out Of The Woods,” and “Open Up.”
Lydon considers PiL’s current lineup of Lu Edmonds (guitar), Scott Firth (bass) and Bruce Smith (drums) to be the best group of people that he’s ever played with, and it shows live.
“An Evening With PiL” was a consciousness-raising voyage that transcended music.