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Public Image Limited - Ritz, Manchester 16 June 2018

Manchester 16 June 2018

40 years is a long, long time. When it covers something as special as PiL it is a period of time worth celebrating with both care and flair. A time for both fans and the band to come together with a mutual respect. This is what happened in Manchester at the Ritz. The punters were here in numbers, both young and old. One bloke near me was telling anyone who’d listen that “John changed my life! He’s here tonight, John’s here!” OK, the guy had had a few sherbets, but his point was spot on.

Choosing 90 minutes worth of music for the occasion is not as easy as it may sound. We expect the classics but we also expect something a little bit more off kilter and innovative from PiL. So it proved.

John arrived on stage with a bowl of fruit which he distributed to the crowd. He reckoned we needed our vitamin C. This was the first of many instances during the evening where his judgement couldn’t be faulted.

Warrior is such a fine song to open any set, a free wheeling epic that energised the expectant crowd. PiL had us in their grip from this moment. Following on directly was Memories, and this was one of those inspirational off beat moments. On paper they are not an obvious pairing but live they sounded perfect together. The Body was next up and a mere 3 songs in, we’d already been zipped back and forth through the 1st decade of PiL.

It’s so important that the most recent, and most stable, decade was represented. Modern day PiL have not just embraced the history, but have forged plenty of history of their own. The One, PiL’s ode to early 70s glam, is fast establishing itself alongside the most engaging tracks they’ve ever recorded, lyrically and musically. It’s a testimony to the skills of the complete band, even down to the live BVs. Next up was Corporate which John delivered as a confident frontal assault. The clarity of John’s vocal tonight was particularly moving when he launched into The Room I Am In. This spoken word piece brought into focus what sets John apart from everybody else. You have to stop what you’re doing and listen. When it evolved into Death Disco it gave heightened meaning to both songs. Outstanding.

Early 90s single Cruel was tucked into the set at this point. It’s a period in PiL history which needs a revisit every so often - they recorded some magnificent songs. Cruel sounded edgy and contemporary live - another surprise highpoint. I’m Not Satisfied, one of John’s most angry recent songs, was lapped up by the eager audience who proved beyond doubt that anger is an energy as excitement continued to build in the venue.

Flowers of Romance kicked it into overdrive. A section of the crowd went ballistic - lost in a frenzied blissful pandemonium. This Is Not A Love Song continued the emotional band/audience link. This was a moving moment for me personally as it brought memories flooding back of seeing PiL for the very first time in 1983, in Manchester. This song was the big moment for me 35 years ago, and it was again tonight.

Rise followed and blew the roof off! “Anger is an energy” is a phase now 100% associated with John. Are there 4 better words to sum him up? The Ritz shook to the refrain. The main set was over but there was a party in full swing. What would PiL do now?

They returned - both fans and band seemed grateful. Public Image continued where Rise left off. It was deadly and direct. I just about survived. What followed, however, eclipsed it. A pulsating Open Up which morphed into Shoom, the final track on the most recent LP. Even the encore had spanned the past 40 years. “What the world needs now….” implored John.

PiL have unquestionably done their bit over the past decades and they haven’t given up throwing down both guidance and the gauntlet. Furthermore, PiL and Manchester have always had a special bond. It was further strengthened tonight. Manchester raised a collective glass to 40 years.

The Public Image may be Rotten, but there was nothing decomposing in Manchester. Just the ripening of a national treasure.
Come back soon.

Review by Phil Singleton

Manchester 16 June 2018

Wrexham 24th June 2018 >

God Save The Sex Pistols ©2018 Phil Singleton /
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God Save the Sex Pistols

God Save The Sex Pistols ©Phil Singleton /