Public Image Ltd/Brooklyn Steel, Brooklyn/Oct. 15, 2018
Following the breakup of the Sex Pistols in 1978, vocalist John Lydon chose to move his music in a radically different direction and formed an experimental dub/rock band in London, England. Lydon named the band Public Image after the novel The Public Image; the “Ltd” was added several months later. Public Image Ltd (often abbreviated as PiL) generated immediate interest despite many personnel changes (Lydon remained the only constant member) through eight albums until the band split in 1992. In 2009, Lydon assembled a revamped lineup to continue the legacy of Public Image Ltd. Since then, PiL has consisted of Lydon, guitarist Lu Edmonds, bassist Scott Firth, and drummer Bruce Smith; they are the longest stable line-up in the band’s history. PiL’s 10th and most recent studio album is 2015’s What the World Needs Now… On July 20, 2018, PiL released The Public Image Is Rotten (Songs From The Heart), a box set consisting of five CDs and two DVDs with B-sides, rarities, radio sessions, live concerts, 12″ mixes and promo videos. A documentary film, The Public Image Is Rotten, opened in theaters on Sept. 14, 2018.
PiL celebrates its 40th anniversary with the current tour, and the retrospective concert at Brooklyn Steel tonight featured at least one song from every PiL album, including even “Open Up,” Lydon’s rather obscure 1993 collaboration with Leftfield. Lydon, wearing a raincoat throughout the set, snarled, muttered and yelped lyrics in a manner almost like slam poetry. Edmonds reverbed and distorted guitar leads as Firth and Smith thumped hard, thick grooves. Without escalating chords, tones or crescendos, the rhythm section immersed itself into simple and repetitious dub reggae bass lines and drum patterns for lengthy periods, creating a deeply hypnotic effect. Throughout the 90-minute performance, however, Lydon was the centerpiece, although at times he was the least interesting contributor on the stage.
Matthew Perryman Jones/Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2/Oct. 17, 2018
Originally from Pennsylvania, Matthew Perryman Jones grew up in Georgia and began his career as a singer-songwriter in 1997, playing his first public performances in Decatur, Ga. He penetrated the Atlanta music scene until 1999, when he relocated to Nashville, Tenn. His debut album in 2000 was rooted in folk and Americana, and later albums inclined a bit towards pop. He released his sixth and most recent album, The Waking Hours, on Sept. 21, 2018.
From the very first song tonight at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2, Matthew Perryman Jones appeared o be both a thoughtful singer songwriter and a seeker. The opening song, “Happy,” questioned why a person who seems to acquire all the essentials still senses a lack of fulfillment. Rather than dwell exclusively on emptiness, his cover of Tom Waits‘ “Take It with Me” later embraced whole-hearted living. The letters of Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, and the writings of philosophical poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Sufi mystic poets Rumi and Hafiz inspired other songs. Soft and gentle, yet piercing with drama, Jones’ rich and vulnerable vocals embodied the mystery of his lyrics as his three-piece band provided subtle accompaniment. Jones’ performance was a spirited exploration of the wonder of life set to music and lyrics.
Collapsing Scenery/The Pyramid Club/Oct. 17, 2018
Since the early 2000s, New York-based Don Devore has played in many underground bands, including punk rockers the Icarus Line, indie guitar band the Lilys, rockers Amazing Baby, theatrical band Ink & Dagger, and electronic group Historics; he is also a curator for Brooklyn arts space Trans Pecos. Austin native and Los Angeles resident Reggie Debris doubles as Mickey Madden, bassist for Maroon 5. Devore and Debris grew up on hardcore punk music. They met in Los Angeles but reconnected in London while each was touring. The two musicians started a new band, Collapsing Scenery, with a goal of playing electronic music without a computer, sonically driven by analog electronics and political lyrics. In 2013, De Vore and Debris established Collapsing Scenery when they collaborated on a video installation in New York City. This led to a month of music and visual programming called Rebuild Babylon, which then evolved into a travelling residency series. Collapsing Scenery finalized its mission performing in warehouses and basements, periodically recording songs that they matched with avant garde videos.
Collapsing Scenery returned to the Pyramid Club and Debris as vocalist and Devore as multi-instrumentalist, along with drummer Chris Colley, created abrasive, thick, experimental music that thrashed and crashed to a danceable rhythm. Rough-hewn, noisy and unfiltered soundscapes pulsed through vintage machinery on amplifiers normally reserved for guitars, as pounding beats propelled strangely melodic and haunting vocals that charged forth aggressively. Industrial, techno, hip hop, dub and hardcore punk melted into the big, loud and stirring wall of sound. The result was invigorating music that will enthrall and mesmerize the gothic, darkwave and industrial underground.
The Damned/Irving Plaza/Oct. 18, 2018
Dave Vanian (David Lett) and Captain Sensible (Raymond Burns) left Masters of the Backside to form the Damned in 1976 in London, England. Shortly thereafter, the Damned debuted at the 100 Club supporting the Sex Pistols. The Damned became the first punk rock band from the United Kingdom to release a single, release an album, and tour the United States. A few years later, the Damned also became one of the first gothic rock bands, noted for Vanian’s vampire-themed wardrobe, chalk-white makeup, baritone crooning, dark lyrics and spooky theatricality. The band split and reformed many times, with Vanian as the only constant member, although several other members, including Sensible, left and returned. The Damned presently consists of vocalist Vanian, guitarist Sensible, keyboardist Monty Oxymoron, bassist Paul Gray, and drummer Andy “Pinch” Pinching. Evil Spirits, the band’s 11th album and first in 10 years, was released on April 13, 2018.
Fittingly, the Damned’s concerts in New York City regularly fall just before Halloween. The goth-punk quintet stormed into Irving Plaza with a fast-moving retrospective of four decades of material. The band performed three songs from the new album, with most of the set consisting of other songs originally recorded from 1977 to 1985. Vanian sang in fine voice, Sensible played rapid, stinging guitar leads while leaping around the stage, and Oxymoron thickened the sound with layers of keyboard rolls. Vanian and Sensible in particular demonstrated a playful camaraderie with each other and with the audience between songs, with Sensible frequently offering quick light-hearted banter with the fans. The high-energy set was palpitating for those in the audience who could keep up, and a locomotive blur for those attention wandered. The Damned played with the vigor and vitality that most younger bands could never achieve.