Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Live Review: PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, HARMONY
The Palace, 11/04/2013
Harmony takes to the stage before a half-full Palace, which is, as expected, mostly comprised of gentlemen witness to the headliner’s last tour in 1989. More a variation of sonic forces than a set of songs, the band’s excoriating blues and ferocious Australiana are devastatingly effective. Always a tough act to follow (just ask anyone on day two of Golden Plains 2012), the variety of textures and emotions Harmony span within a song is impressive, and largely due to their imaginative musicianship, and songs’ disorienting construction. Tom Lyngcoln's incendiary guitar work remains determinedly economical for a man recently voted one of the Top 40 guitarists in this country’s history. Notes singe but never linger, chords sound like a free jazz horn trio; it’s a disorienting, hellish perfection.
'Good evening Melbourne,’ proclaims John Lydon, as Public Image Limited assemble. Dressed in an oversized plaid shirt and resembling an exasperated chicken with his cockscomb hair, pulled in chin, rotund tum and flapping arms, Lydon is on full power from the get go. His voice powerful and evocative, the show is essentially about him and his concerns, and we’re captivated. Technical brilliance was never a term associated with punk or post-punk, but tonight Lydon makes a case for being one of the most overlooked vocal talents in history. His lyrical acuity never questioned, he moves effortlessly from the Muslim-call-to-prayer of opener Four Enclosed Walls to the ensuing caustic fury of Albatross with its dark, suffocating locked groove. The band, made up of talent from Slits, The Pop Group and The Spice Girls’ live band (no, really), specialise in piercing guitar and tight, rolling rhythms, solidly reinforcing Lydon as he wrestles truth. Highlights of the set come from their classic Metal Box album and the writing team of Lydon, Keith Levene and Jah Wobble. The phenomenal Swan Lake/Death Disco merges a subterranean bassline, clustering shards of guitar and Lydon actually crying as he relates the story of his mother’s death, which, sadly, could double for the passing of his stepdaughter Ari Up another victim of cancer.
‘This person’s had enough of useless memories!’ he later sneers, leading the band through Memories, another arctic blast from the past. Songs from 2012’s comeback This is PiL album stand up well; Deeper Waters, Reggie Song and the titanic dub of One Drop all show no drop in power or conviction. Crowd involvement reaches a peak during This is Not a Love Song (’Melbourne, show me your fucking dance moves. You need more Aborigine’ he waspishly remarks). The barbing continues during Warrior; ‘Australia, are you a warrior?’ [Cheers]. Is this YOUR land?’ [Confused silence].
Always needling, even when the rhythms are at their most danceable, Lydon leads us out with a euphoric take on Theme, which ends with on a resounding ‘good-BYE!’ Cheered back on, the set closes with Rise (‘WHAT is anger? / Anger is an en-er-gy!’) and a surprise revisiting of Leftfield & Lydon’s banging 90s club anthem Open Up proving that whether aiming for the mind or body, Lydon knows that the truth never misses.