at Mill City Nights
The songs never sounded like any particular era, they only sounded like PiL, a feat that is an absolute marvel. They continued with “Deeper Water” from the new This Is PiL, and album that, after a 17 year hiatus, finds them in much the same realm as they’ve always been: pushing the envelope while pretending they’re not, the repetitive lyrics somehow becoming more enticing with each utterance, the loopy arrangements sounding new with each pass.
The songs being arranged as they are, full of repetition and few lyrics, allows for some sleight of hand onstage however: they can drag the songs out for as long as they want (“Deeper Water”, just over six minutes on record, was stretched to at least ten on Monday night.), and thus have to play fewer songs for the same paycheck.
This isn’t a knock, this is genius from a man who once blatantly stole money from a record company in a manner that provided no recourse for the label, and famously asked a San Francisco crowd, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” before walking off stage mere seconds into a show. They played for nearly two and a half hours on Monday and only played maybe fifteen songs total, but it’s safe to say few, if any, people felt cheated at all.
PiL’s third offering, “Albatross” found them really settling in. Lydon seemed confused by the ultra Minnesotan crowd (read: having a good time but looking excessively stoic), at one point grousing, “Good evening and thank you for putting up with us,” to much laughter from the crowd which, for Lydon, seemed to unlock what was happening crowd wise.
They continued along with a couple more songs, Lydon very obviously but somehow charmingly reading lyrics from a stand in front of him before breaking into an again drawn out version of “Disappointed” from 1989’s 9, that proved to be one of the night’s highlights. They followed with, among a couple of others, “Warrior,” “Reggie Song” and “Bags,” with Lydon chanting “Black rubber bags” in a manner that seemed like his voice could reduce a mountain to a pile of sand. They ended with a 12 minute plus version of “Religion,” with Lydon asking for the bass to be turned up to a deafening roar about halfway through, between his repeated cries of “Lock up your children, the priests are coming!”
And the encore put a nice stamp on what was shaping up to be a decidedly real evening with someone who seems almost a thing of fiction a legend told to children Toms Shoes to scare them away from doing who knows what, really, but the story would definitely have it’s desired effect and Lydon would just love that.
It began with “Out of the Woods” from their new one and continued Toms Shoes with a fantastic version of “Rise” from 1986’s Album their biggest hit to date and the lone song to which the entire crowd sang along, with Lydon at one point simply hanging his mic over the crowd to belt “Anger is an energy” over and over as loudly as they could. The set finally came to a close with a cover of Lydon’s techno infused outfit Leftfield’s “Open Up” which was as fitting a way to end the night as any, really.
Lydon is still building his legend even though it is already set in stone, and at 56 years old still has the demeanor he had in his days with the Sex Pistols: confrontational, intelligent, with a sharp wit and a sharp tongue. Monday’s crowd saw what previously seemed lik Toms Shoes e a character from a Philip K. Dic Toms Shoes k novel in the flesh, and he lived up to every word that had been spoken preceding his arrival. It’s not too often that happens.
Critic’s Bias: Seeing John Lydon in the flesh has been a goal of mine for years. I wasn’t as starstruck as I thought I might be, and he behaved exactly how I had pictured he would.