Review: Johnny Wasn't Rotten at Culture Room With Public Image Ltd

John Lydon, more infamously known as Johnny Rotten, earned his place in the books as lead singer of the Sex Pistols, but last night at Fort Lauderdale's Culture Room, the legendary punk rocker proved his "secondary" band, Public Image Ltd, are second to none.  

Lydon walked on stage at 9:15 dressed in a ridiculous jailbird-striped set of pajamas, hair still spiky and bleached blonde, with looped earrings pierced into his lobes and that smart-ass punk rock attitude he trademarked in full effect.

"Hello, are we ready?" he posed in his Cockney accent, and the crowd surely was.

Upon entrance, patrons were handed flyers that warned "No Moshing," a humorous gesture considering this older crowd were probably more than happy to bob their heads to the angular beats, rather than risk another hip replacement surgery.

Public Image Ltd have been called post-punk; Their ambitions stretched beyond the three chords in which the Sex Pistols were happy to wallow, as they waded into artier, stranger, though oftentimes just as loud waters. Last night, Lydon's voice often veered into operatic range. He enjoys hamming it up, as in his expressive, method-acting repertoire of facial expressions as he sings, and also in his asides to the audience: "I can see myself on the TV. I'm tan. Two hours on the beach and I look fucking gorgeous," he said before going to into a rendition of "The Body." 

Performing in front of a banner meant to look like a worn down brick wall with a PIL logo on it, the rhythm section of drummer Bruce Smith and bassist Scott Firth kept a steady beat during extended versions of older songs, as well as newer ones from their surprisingly excellent new album What The World Needs Now....

Guitarist Lu Edmonds stood out with his enormous beard and scarecrow physique. He brought the goods to his guitar and mandolin playing, but it was of course Lydon who commanded all the attention. The dude wore Sally Jesse Raphael turtle frame glasses to read a book he placed on a musical stand a few feet in front of him. One of the great mysteries of the evening was, what was in that book? Was it his lyrics? Maybe it was a library book he had to finish in order to avoid paying a fine, or perhaps nude pictures to provide him inspiration.

After an hour-and-forty-five minute set that concluded with "Public Image" and "Rise," Lydon earned the right to read whatever he likes.  

- "Don't Ask Me"
- "This Is Not a Love Song"
- "Deeper Water"
- "Big Blue Sky"
- "Swan Lake"
- "Disappointed"
- "The Body"
- "Warrior"
- "Out of the Woods"

- "Public Image"
- "Rise"
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David Rolland is a freelance writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland