I had no idea what to expect. It had been over a year since I’d been to a gig. Well overdue, indeed. But after a long day at work I had to drag myself away from my couch, teapot and TV to undertake the trek to UEA’s LCR. I had bought my ticket to go and see Public Image Limited and, being Dutch, not using it felt like the wrong thing to do, no matter how tired I was.
There was another reason. Back in 1978 or ’79, my very own parents went to see The Sex Pistols. They continue to brag about it until this very day. Even my dad, not normally the extrovert type, is said to have engaged in some serious pogo-ing. Forty years after this memorable event, it was about time to follow in their footsteps and go and see Mr Lydon myself.
Upon arrival I found the general atmosphere to be upbeat. I was surprised to be one of the youngest people in the crowd, with most people in their forties, fifties and sixties. On the stage a DJ was playing a good mix of ska and rocksteady. Around me people in vintage band shirts were gathering to save themselves a good spot directly in front of the stage.
I always find it difficult to stay awake when waiting for a gig to start. I’m a morning person and control freak, two character traits that impair my ability to wait patiently while roadies perform checks that are no doubt important, yet don’t look like they are. My patience, or semblance thereof, was eventually rewarded when John Lydon cum suis took the stage.
Wearing an outfit that looked like a cross between pyjamas and a priest’s robe, Lydon stormed the stage. Sorry about the cliché, but there’s just no other expression that would adequately describe his ability to instantly dominate the room and everyone in it. The band launched into a string of punchy songs that caused the last bit of tiredness to evaporate from my bones. Damn, they were good.
A few songs in, Lydon took a break to notify us – he doesn’t do apologies – that he was ill and on antibiotics. If he has this much energy while feeling under the weather, I’m not sure I’d survive his gigs when he’s in good health. While he was self-medicating with whisky, it did not affect his ability to get his words out. Almost preacher-like, he twisted and turned behind his music stand while howling like a choir of banshees. Indeed, describing his performance calls for metaphor and hyperbole.
The crowd, at least at first, was a bit dead. I believe that taking selfies at a gig should be a criminal offense, and people who spend too much time filming the gig inspire my desire to snatch their phone and slam it onto their head. You’ve got all day to look at screens, so for god’s sake, leave it in your pocket for an hour and a half and enjoy the bloody show. Especially if said show features one of the godfathers of punk.
Suddenly, however, I found myself in the middle of a pit. Apparently everyone had been waiting for the band to play their greatest hits, which they eventually did, and the crowd went collectively bat shit. It’s an intriguing sight to witness people who could have been my parents, some shirtless, slam into each other like there is no tomorrow. Me, I preferred to hover around the edges, content to observe the madness rather than be part of it.
Halfway through the show Lydon thanked the crowd for their patience, a nice but virtually unnecessary comment. Even when affected by what looked like a nasty bug, Lydon and his band put on a formidable show. I’ve seen younger and less established bands play like they just wanted the show to end so they could get back to their Playstation. With this band, there’s no such laziness. I left the LCR feeling inspired and rejuvenated. Never mind the TV.
Image Suvan Chowdhury via Pexels