PiL, Camden Electric Ballroom, 22nd Dec

It’s easy to mock a PiL gig. With an average age of about 41 the demographics on this cold Camden night just about matched the waistlines. Of course he’s an affable chap these days, spending his days in the warm LA sunshine has warmed the cockles of the man who once told BBC presenters to F**K off. His opening line about his return to North London being “local boy made good” got a cheer as did his promise to do his best “which is damn good by anyone else’s standards”.

But to be fair, some of the sneer of old still remains and John Lydon still gobs a lot, only these days it’s on to the stage and not the punters (he’s a fan of the footballers-favourite finger-on-the-nostril method by the way). Blair and the Labour party get a good roasting over the Lydon fire and it’s said with such venom that you can’t help but chuckle along as the flames crackle.

With a stripped down band and sound PiL are musically as uncompromising as ever. The former Mr Rotten’s opinions on melody are well-known (he no like) but it’s hard to warm to music which so viscerally tries to repel you. Bags was screeched out like a difficult labour with trebly guitar and military precision drumming working its way deep into your eardrum. It’s saying something when after an hour into the set, Rise with its nasally “I could be wrong I could be right”, finally washes over you like a soothing balm.

After 80 minutes of unrelenting musical alienation I gave up waiting for any Sex Pistols songs. I nodded to the greying punk with F*** YOU sewn upside down and back-to-front on his jacket and said my goodbyes. A cop out yes, but somehow I suspect in the world of PiL this probably goes down as something of victory for the band.


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