The Ritz is a wonderful venue. Famous for it's springy dance-floor, Northern Soul all nights, grab a granny club nights and hosting the first gig ever for a certain Manchester band formed by Stephen Patrick Morrissey who was one of the few there the night the Pistols played Manchester in 1976. Recently refurbished, it's an intimate venue with a horseshoe balcony. The only thing the Ritz is missing a raised area with easy wheelchair access. However, don't get caught out by the early start and curfew times. After a sweep by security and a quick turnout The Ritz transforms from gig venue back into a nightclub. This means tonight's support band are taking to the stage as early as 7.15pm"Do you know who is supporting tonight?" "No" - you could have hours of fun with that one. Yes, support came from six piece LA based alternative rockers with the most un-google friendly name; No (although they have secured @NO address on Twitter). They are currently putting in the miles on a whirlwind European tour, collecting some arty snaps that would be the envy of most backpackers for their social media sites. Despite the early kick off time the audience slowly builds during No's set. They undeniably sound remarkably similar to The National, maybe with just a hint of Interpol sprinkled into the mix for good measure. But if you are going to be compared to two US Indie bands then I'd say those are the ones you'd want to pick. Frontman Bradley Hanan Carter certainly has stage presence - smartly sporting a skinny black tie, grey shirt and shiny red Dr Marten's boots. He moves forward and works the front of the stage well, as if an attempt to engage personally with the audience. They might not be the most obvious choice to support PiL but it is testament to the influence that John Lydon has passed down to following generations. Their Twitter feed includes a respectful and proud group shot with the Guvnor of Punk, you can tell they rightly feel honoured to be on the bill. This is their video for the single, Stay With Me. The slightly unnerving love sick crash test dummy reminds me of Interpol's Evil video.
Last year Public Image Limited released their first album in twenty years, 'This Is PiL'. Two tracks from the new album form a club sandwiched in between classics from 'Metal Box' as 'Deeper Water' and 'Reggie Song' bookend 'Memories'. John's trench coat has been ditched and now the set turns it's attention to highlights from the later years of PiL's original incarnation. The band do a decent job with backing vocals on 'Disappointed', but I'd love to hear it sang live with a gospel choir live. Another track from the album 9 follows, 'Warrior'. "Is this the famous Manchester dancing?" asks Lydon somewhere in the middle of 'Flowers Of Romance'; "... It's OK, I appreciate the subtleties." If John was trying to goad the audience, he need not have bothered as the big guns were about to come out with a trio of tunes that raised the roof. Starting with the hypnotic bass line of 'Death Disco' followed by 'This Is Not A Love Song' and 'Public Image'. As Lydon bids the Ritz crowd "goodbye" as 'Public Image' comes to a close the place explodes. It's a well judged set that has come to the boil nicely.
Returning for the encore, a third and final track from 'This Is PiL' gets an outing, 'Out Of The Woods'. We've passed the advertised curfew time but thankfully nobody is pulling the plug. Lydon introduces the band using just over dramatic first names and hand gestures as if talking to a toddler. "Luuu, Bruce, Scott....and you can call me" he turns his mic stand out to the audience for a mixture of responses, mostly either John, wanker or fat bastard, (well it is a punk gig not a panto). 'Rise' is another highlight of the set, "Anger is an energy" is chanted back with gusto. It's also one final warm up for a Glastonbury performance two days later.
The gig is finally comes to a close a good 15 minutes after curfew, with 'Open Up', on which John sang guest vocals on Leftfield's 1995 Leftism album, which begs a question, what's to stop Lydon throwing in a couple of Pistol numbers into his set? PiL are after all his band and while fans might fondly look back at the genius interplay of Levene and Wobble on the first two albums, PiL had been Lydon's creative vehicle for nearly 15 years, and it's taken us off on some wonderfully diverse directions. Now the show is back on the road and John's at the wheel - where will he take us next? Wherever he bloody wants to go - This Is PiL.'
Review by Paul Holloway
(Paul presents The Guest List (Tuesdays & Wednesday 7pm) & Fuzzbox (Fridays 10pm) on Stockport’s radio station Pure 107.8FM)
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