PiL Finish Their 2015 Concert Tour with A Sold Out Show At The Fonda in L.A.
John (Johnny Rotten) Lydon, the godfather of English punk music, brought the latest incantation of his band Public Image Ltd (PiL), to the Fonda theater, in the heart of Hollywood. The sold out show was a fitting finale to the group’s 2015 tour. Just after 10 PM the dusty red curtains parted at the historic old venue and the band took the stage. Lydon was joined by PiL’s other members, Lu Edmonds on guitar, Bruce Smith on drums and Scott Firth on bass. Although all the musicians have played in the band before, only Lydon remains as the original member and mentor, since the groups inception in 1978. The feisty anarchist, best known as the lead singer of the seminal punk band the Sex Pistols, has presided over ten albums under the moniker of PiL. That includes their latest 2015 release, “What The World Needs Now”. The band launched into a song from the new album, “Double Trouble” as the crowd surged towards the stage. A diverse group of music fans packed both levels of the theater with nearly every foot of viewing space occupied with entranced fans. In fact, the audience became a little too entranced for the feisty Lydon, master of biting sarcasm and wit, as the evening wore on. His calls for a bit of anarchy and angry shout alongs met with a sheepish response, prompting Lydon to admonish the crowd for their limp response. “Well, you’re a sorry lot, you’re going to be no match for ISIS,” he chided the audience at one point. But it was all in good fun and it didn’t deter the band from playing a near two hour set of sophisticated rock, far more complex than the simple punk anthems from the Sex Pistols days.
Much of the set was filled with songs from the new album. The band appropriately dressed in suits came ready for business laying down a cacophony of sophisticated sound, while Lydon laid down his visceral vocals with his distinctive punk cadence. Guitarist Lu Edmonds, a Svengali of sorts, played all manner of stringed instruments, producing surprisingly complex and compelling lead riffs. Edmonds has played in some of the most prominent punk and experimental bands in the UK, including Public Image Ltd, The Damned, Shriekback, The Spizzles and The Mekons. The story goes that he actually got his nickname from members of The Damned, who named him Lu, short for lunatic.
Lydon actually introduced Lu as Jesus, following a fifteen minute version of “Religion” from the bands first album. The jam featured Lu wailing on guitar while Lydon delivered an ever more intense diatribe in his coveted persona as an antichrist, lambasting the follies of organized religion. As the song progressed, Lydon called on Scott Firth’s electric stand up bass to be turned up in the house sound system in a building cacophony of deafening bass. At one point the walls of the theater began to rattle. “The bass will set us free!” Lydon yelled as the thumping rhythm reached an ear shattering level. Firth, the master bass player also has an impressive resume of collaborations including Steve Winwood, Elvis Costello, and oddly enough a world tour with the Spice Girls. The Religion jam also featured a solo by veteran punk drummer Bruce Smith. He helped co-found a ground breaking English band, The Pop Group in 1977. The band was best known as one of the first English groups to mix a funk groove with their punk rock roots. The trio meshed so seamlessly behind Lydon throughout the night that they sounded much more like a modern day jam band than a punk group. But Lydon with his strong trademark vocals and carefree humor kept an irreverent punk like feel all during the show.
The show fittingly ended, right at midnight, with a double encore and a bow from the four sweaty performers. Following the concert Lydon threw an afterparty celebrating the end of the tour, at the Record Parlour, a unique vintage vinyl store recently opened in the heart of Hollywood. A DJ spun eclectic tunes while an open bar fueled partygoers waiting patiently until the wee hours of the morning for the master of ceremonies to arrive. The location was an appropriate back drop for a party thrown by the godfather of punk. THE RECORD PARLOUR has an authentic vibe with over 50,000 vinyl records, vintage stereo gear and music memorabilia surrounding party goers. The shop is available to host live performances, listening parties, press conferences, interviews/photo shoots and can even record live performances to vinyl onsite via a vintage record lathe. Lydon sauntered into the party about 1.30am in the morning and huddled with friends and family, many of whom lived nearby. Lydon actually found a home in the artsy anarchy that is Venice, California, just west of Hollywood. Smiles and funny faces prevailed all around as the party spun into the wee hours of a cold Hollywood night.
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