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Electric Picnic 2010 - Public Image Limited

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ATL | 02:10 UK time, Saturday, 4 September 2010

Electric Avenue, Friday 3rd September, 10.45pm

Describe in a tweet: This is far better than it should have been, but nowhere near as good as it could be.

What Happened: John Lydon should fire his tailor. Coming out wearing perhaps the most revolting multi-coloured luminous patterned shirt / tartan trousers combo ever imagined, he revels in the attention, playing up to every caricature one could ever have of him, And so begins an epic journey into frustration, an often thrilling ride through the many faces of the former Johnny Rotten.

Part of the problem with PiL is that their current incarnation stands in direct opposition to everything they originally stood for. Emerging as a reaction against the tired and staid music scene of 1978 (punk having lapsed into orthodoxy, whilst the dinosaur rock bands of the 70s still ruled America), PiL stated their intention to be a new breed of rock band, a democratic organisation where the idea was paramount to any convention imposed by the music industry. And then over the course of the 80s they managed to go back on all of the promises they initially made, becoming just another 'alternative' rock band, playing the music industry game.

The current 'reunion' line-up would have been unthinkable back in 78, but they tear into the songs with admirable aplomb. Lydon cuts a curious figure, howling and bellowing his way through the songs, almost secondary to the earth shattering dub basslines that dominate the set. Whilst original bassist Jah Wobble is long gone, his basslines live on, at one point becoming so awesomely heavy that they literally knock the wind out of our lungs. This is possibly one of the loudest things ATL has ever heard - a true force of nature.

Over the top of this, metallic guitar and intensely percussive drumming churn and grind, providing an ever shifting base upon which the songs are formed. Lydon remains the focal point, despite doing very little, swigging from a bottle of cognac and eyeballing everything in visual range with his manic stare. Some of the 80s material has dated very badly, whilst the material drawn from the band's first two albums still sounds fresh, albiet truly challenging. At times the intensity of the music becomes almost unbearable, a true lesson in how to take an audience out of their comfort zone, and push every boundary possible.

It doesn't all hold together, and there's always the '"ideological" questions hanging over the set, but at times, Lydon more than proves why he deserves the legend so frequently attatched to his name.

Electric Dreams: During 'Religion', the band come together in an almost terrifying way, frightening in their intensity.

Ants at a Picnic: Aside from Lydon's questionable fashion sense, and a few misfires in terms of the setlist, PiL have attracted a somewhat more unruly crowd than any other performance of the festival. It's not too out of hand, but after becoming accustomed to all manner of niceness, it becomes slightly difficult at times.

EP rating: 6/10


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