On Friday night, SHATTERJAPAN joined hundreds to witness post-punk veterans PUBLIC IMAGE LTD. (PiL) at Shibuya AX in Tokyo. To open the show, lead singer John Lydon (of SEX PISTOLS fame) walked out onto the stage, arms open in triumph to the fervent applause of the crowd. The band played a hearty two-hour set – a feat easily attained by a band boasting 9 albums – and the crowd didn’t hesitate to show their appreciation during their most popular tracks, wholeheartedly joining in for the likes of “This is not a love song,” “Public Image” and “Disappointed.”
It’s been 2 years since PiL last performed in Japan, having played Summer Sonic Festival in 2011, however this event marked the first time in over 20 years the Tokyo fan base would hear tracks from a new album. The group’s latest effort “This Is PiL” was released in 2012 after a ten-year break from recording. Prior to this, 8 of their 9 total albums were produced between 1978 and 1992, shrouding the 2012 release in much anticipation, and ultimately it was rewarded with positive reviews. The current lineup of PiL consists of sole consistent member John Lydon, who created the band after the demise of Sex Pistols in 1978, plus former members Lu Edmonds on guitar, Bruce Smith on drums and new member Scott Firth covering bass and electronic instruments.
Friday’s performance as a whole was incredibly tight, and despite Lydon’s insistence that he was being hindered by “a frog in his throat,” which he intermittently took care of with swigs of whiskey, his vocal performance was undeniably strong and reeked of the band’s signature punk rock discontent. At one point, Lydon quoted Gandhi to the crowd, punching the sky and proclaiming “Passive resistance! No man is my enemy!” before breaking into “Flowers Of Romance.” Although scarcely daring to move away from the illuminated podium holding the lyrics to all of their songs, Lydon still delivered a powerful, passionate performance, and the brief moments he did move around the stage involved him erratically dancing with his arms spread like wings, eyes wild and wide open.
Towards the end, rather than running with the ever-tiresome notion of an encore, Lydon merely asked the audience to give him four minutes to smoke a cigarette, and warned us not to go anywhere before returning to close with 3 more songs. The band was modest, thankful, and seemed genuinely thrilled to be back on the stage in Tokyo, a feeling reciprocated by the fans who had waited so long to hear new material from this iconic post-punk enigma.