John Lydon sees the funny side when the mystery person who threw a pint during PIL’s set reveals herself.
It’s Saturday morning and the BBC pundits are chattering away excitedly about it being “super Saturday”. And they’re right. Today turns out to be the best day of the weekend. Several favourites, the intriguing prospect of a set by Ruts DC, and the much anticipated appearance of Public Image Limited. How will they go down? More later….
Odd moment of the day comes in the street outside the Winter Gardens when I pass one of those “living statues” walking past with her shopping trolley and (presumably) grandchild in tow. I suppose living statues have to do normal stuff like the rest of us though.
First band for me is the very noisy FUK, who don’t even break between songs except maybe for the odd screech of feedback. Next up are is the Yorkshire band Geoffrey Oi-cott, with their unique brand of cricket-themed Oi. After this are the more serious but just as enjoyable Runnin Riot, perhaps the best oi band in the UK, combining protest and drinking songs. I’m at the front of the stage again, but this time I don’t have a pint. Just as well as suddenly rubber chickens are flying through the air again, leaving the security staff looking bemused.
Speaking of which I’m pleased to report that I lost no pints this weekend. I nearly lost a batch of records and CDs when I put them down for a few seconds and a grumpy cleaner straight out of a 70s sitcom wanted to stick them in his black bag. But no pints were lost. I did see last year’s pint spiller at one point in a sorry state being propped up by his mates. I had assumed last year he was a wannabe macho-punk dickhead, but this year I realised that it was more likely that he couldn’t hold his beer, and this poor creature was to be pitied, not hated. I’ve never been in that state at a gig …not that I can remember anyway…
The evening gets underway with Paranoid Visions, who are handily summarised using the name of an RR contributor – angry Irish punk. They also throw in an element of the more menacing end of post punk. Frontman Deko, is on top bile spewing form despite (or perhaps because of) having sciatica. He does get uncharacteristically gushing when TV Smith joins them for Outsider Artist. They botch it a bit, but it’s the only clip I can find. Otherwise possibly the best set of the weekend. Possibly…
I run like Usain Bolt through the Winter Gardens to see Case, another newly reformed band, this time one that mixed up ska, oi and punk. Tight and energetic and a band you can dance to. Well I can’t, but you might be able to. Singer Matthew Newman is irrepressibly cheerful, like a slimline Buster Bloodvessel. Another excellent set.
The bands listed above would of course be enough to satisfy any music lover, but there is another highlight soon after. Segs Jennings and Dave Ruffy, the surviving Ruts, are playing together again as Ruts DC. The impression given is that the emphasis will be on the Ruts DC material and at first it indeed seems they’re mainly going to be playing reggae. Then a song about Smiley Culture unexpectedly morphs into S.U.S. From then on it’s Ruts classics all the way to a wild crowd reaction. Can Lydon top this?
As if that’s not enough, next up is The Varukers. I’ve seen many Varukers gigs and only ever seen one bad one – that was here last year! They even sounded apologetic on stage. Tonight they deliver their usual tight set of thrash punk. A word of caution: this is their most melodic song
I’ll overlook last year. That’s the four best sets of the weekend so far in a row.
Onto the main event. The ballroom is rammed full for PIL, people are queueing to get in. Surely this will be the highlight of a great day. I want to enjoy it, I really do. But he loses me halfway through the opening This Is Not A Love Song which is dragged on twice as long as necessary. I’m not alone. It’s not until halfway through the 3rd song, Albatross (which was originally 10 minutes long anyway) that I begin to enjoy it again, and even then he makes it hard work. Songs are stretched out way beyond their welcome and only a handful of songs are from what many agree is the classic 1978-80 period. Lydon is being wilfully contrary as usual. A stray plastic pint glass showers him and he’s furious. “I’ve done everything for you – you’ve done fuck all for me” he tells the unknown assailant, suggesting some kind of messiah complex. I don’t mind his usual arrogance and sarcasm (“I know you lot are used to copying what I did 30 years ago but get with the programme”), I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t any. However I’m a bit pissed off when the set ends with an interminable Open Up, and we don’t even get a quick Public Image to thank us for staying. The Ballroom is half empty well before the end of the set. I enjoyed it to an extent, but left feeling ..err..cheated!
After that I want to hear some actual punk rock. Studs, spikes, distorted guitar, that sort of thing. Happily Rat from Varukers spin off band , The Vile, oblige with an aftershow set at the brilliantly named Tache Club, although I have to wait until 3.45am! I said today was a marathon. On the way home there is one more thing to piss on my parade. A mate asks me what I thought of The Cravats set earlier in the evening. I’d completely forgotten to watch them. My mate reckons it was the best time he’d seen them. In my drunken state this feels like one of the worst things that’s ever happened. I finally get to bed at 5am.