Review: Pil live @ Shepherds Bush Empire – A Reflection

Art & Culture

We've had an interesting few weeks, with news breaking of our Prime Minister's antics with pigs and Labour finally getting a proper lefty leader, are times now ripe for a revolution? Whatever the answer it couldn't seem more fitting that PiL are back in town with John Lydon at helm steering us through a frenetic set at Shepherd's Bush.

His band are a virtual who's who of iconic musicians and much as he's the thread to tie their styles together, the same can be said of PiL's sound, which borrows from dub, reggae and punk and repurposes it for it's own needs. In this case, as a canvas for Lydon's shouty protests and punchy lyrics. And with ideas of rebellion being particualrly zeitgeist-y right now, it's little surprise the audience ranges in age from 20 to 60. 

It's not just Lydon's rock infused ranting which gives PiL their appeal though, the sounds is focused on a series of tight grooves which together with clever lighting design makes for a hypnotic show. As a front man he may have ditched his bondage trousers in favour of harem pants and  his movements may not be as frenzied as before but setting himself apart at the front of the stage Lydon takes a new form as orator or conductor holding us all in his thrall for the duration of the show.

Sure there are some songs which resonate more than others but as a band they firmly have the mesaure of their audience and those patient enough to come along for the ride are rewarded with an encore of their poppier hits "Public Image" and "Rise". If Lydon is our general then "Rise" provides a perfect call to arms – despite being written some 30 years ago, "anger is an energy" has never sounded as relevant as it does tonight…