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Concert Reviews:
Lydon, PiL Return In Fine Form At The Crofoot

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Thursday, April 29, 2010

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PONTIAC -- John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) suffered a bit of a geographic malfunction on Wednesday night (April 28). The punk rock icon spoke about being in "lovely downtown Detroit," when he and his band, Public Image Ltd., were actually in the heart of Pontiac.

But after 17 years off the road, the man deserves a break -- especially since he and PiL did no less than blow the roof off a packed Crofoot Ballroom with a fierce and incendiary two-hour performance that not so much shook but burned off any rust the quartet might have accumulated during that prolonged hiatus.

Time only seemed to have passed if you took a close look at Lydon's face -- slightly more lined at 54 but still beaming, underneath a modified Mohawk haircut, with the bright-eyed, mischievous energy he's had since leading the punk revolution with the Sex Pistols more than 30 years ago. PiL, of course, was much more prolific and accomplished, and that allowed Lydon and the current incarnation of the band -- alumni Lu Edmonds on guitar and Bruce Smith on percussion, plus new bassist Scott Firth -- to traipse through an 18-song repertoire that, thanks to PiL being ahead of its time on the first go-round, sounded perfectly in place in the early 21st century.

PiL covered a lot of stylistic ground on Wednesday, from the kinetic energy of "This is Not a Love Song," "Bags" and "Public Image" to the trancey drones of "Poptones," "Albatross," "Death Disco" and "Rise," the angsty ambience of "Tie Me to the Length of That" and the funky dance grooves of "Memories," "Warrior" and "Open Up." "Disappointed," PiL's sole chart-topper in the U.S., brought the show to an anthemtic peak, while "Religion" became a nine-minute suite with Lydon adding sharp-tongued one-liners about current Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic church's child abuse scandals.

And what would a PiL show be without Lydon engaging in a few verbal tirades? "Uncle Johnny" started early Wednesday, targeting fans who were "shouting (stuff)" at him from the side balcony; "I'm the one you listen to around here. Me! Now (expletive) off!" He also took shots at some of his peers ("Not all pop stars are (expletive) -- just (expletive) most of them!") and got in the face of a security guard who dared lean on PiL's stage during the encores. He also chided the faithful, exhorting the crowd to "Wake up!" after "eight years under a (expletive) Bush and to shake a little more booty during "Flowers of Romance;" "Detroit, I thought this town had rhythm. Do not be shy. This is your good friend Mr. Rotten -- relax and dance!"

He meant it all, of course, but it was also part of the fun. Lydon and PiL are back and in fine form, and here's hoping it's not another 17 years before we see them again.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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