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PiL Live @ The Palace, Melbourne, Australia

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It’s been a long time since PiL was on Australian soil. They started in 1978 and toured Australia three times in 1984, 1985 and 1989 before going on hiatus from 1992 to 2009. They’re labeled as post-punk and post-rock with NME saying in 1999 “Arguably the first post-rock group”. I wonder who is the first ‘post post-rock’ group? Anyway, all I know is I have to write something to ‘post’ a review.

The Palace is the emptiest I have ever seen it pre show. The night time sounds of wild crickets was almost drowning out the small bit of chatter that was actually going on. I don’t think the opening act Harmony seemed to help much in either drawing a crowd or drowning out the previously mentioned insects. Featuring members of McLusky and The Nation Blue, the blend of gospel drawl and somber blues only seemed to give rise to eyebrows of those around me, wondering what was going on. The six piece band consisted of a three part female harmony ensemble on the right and on the left; guitarist, drummer and a bassist who played facing the muso’s with his back to the chorus. Perhaps it was sung best when ending one of their songs with the word repeated over and over and over… “Disconnected”.

The room had filled and Public Image Limited came out to delighted cheers and no matter what you think of John Lydon, Rotten or not, you just can’t help but love the guy. With the PiL logo filling the space behind the band they started quietly with John Lydon’s high quivering vocal’s repeating “Allah” feverishly which grew into Four Enclosed Walls from their 1981 album, Flowers Of Romance.

It was clear from the first moment he looked out at the room that all were his for the taking. Lydon is truly mesmerising to watch; he looks out so intensely it’s like he knows and understands all our troubles and will wash them away. The music though is just as amazing, without it there would be nothing. Drummer Bruce Smith, Guitarist Robert ‘Lu’ Edmonds and bassist Scott Firth paint the perfect backdrop for Lydon’s assumed craze. He is larger than life and anyone associated with the Sex Pistols has not only a lot of baggage but also a lot to live up to. He isn’t interested in any of that. He knows who he is and what his beliefs are and although his lyrics are full of messages and social commentary it’s bollocks to anyone who isn’t there for a good time. Clearly Lydon is a person like all of us but his live persona is so immense that perhaps a punter over heard enthusiastically said it best “He’s like Jesus!”.

Ok that’s going a bit far but the set was an emotional well oiled machine. The tribal rhythms kept up the constant groove with Edmond’s use of guitar, banjo and saz (a Turkish long-necked stringed instrument) completely captivating. The Ravi Shankar of the post-rock saz world if you will. PiL are alternative dance, or maybe as I like to put it, 80’s dance music for retired 70’s punkers.

The set was a mixture of old and new and really stepped it up half way through when they played Warrior backed up with Flowers Of Romance, a fan favourite. Their older songs as expected getting the biggest crowd response and none more so than ‘This Is Not A Love Song’; though their new tracks from 2012’s ‘This is PiL’ fitted in perfectly.

Highlights, ‘Warrior’, ‘This Is Not A Love Song’, ‘Flowers Of Romance’ and definitely ‘Rise’. Oh and out of interest, I didn’t see Carrie Bickmore at the gig either.

Set list:
Four Enclosed Walls
Deeper Water
Reggie Song
Flowers Of Romance
One Drop
Death Disco
This Is Not A Love Song
Public Image

Out Of The Woods
Open Up

Photos by John Raptis

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