I wanted that memory.
I created it amidst the mosh and the mass. Bespectacled and beered – well singing with cider that anger is an energy as I pushed myself on the shoulders of older men to ‘rise’ in the air and be part of it….maaaaan.
It was an odd concert to be honest. As I get older I tend to obsess more about train times than set lists – about routes and changes. I had met a friend early – soaking up the [unpretty] vacant Hirst exhibition [and we ‘should’ care – there was nothing pretty about his empty money grabbing greed and lack of style and grace – what a fucking rotter – next question.] We had settled near London Bridge where the Shard stands like an intruder in the city and talked about this and that – but my mind was half on the clock and working my way up the Northern line to be on time for show.
Arriving only to be greeted by bouncers and barcode scanners. Like a supermarket where the staff wear tuxedos. Check your ticket - that you printed – further saving costs – I used to keep hold of my old tickets – they had been designed – thought about – already providing the first steps of anticipation for an impending night, sometimes weeks in advance. Don’t get me wrong – I do anticipate a night out – in fact I had done since I was given the ticket in a card on the morning I turned 41. Slowly clutching at middle age and tales to tell round the meeting table – not the public houses. But ticket design is a thing of the past. Perhaps it will help the hoarder in me.
So I arrived early – I wasn’t the first - the place was filling up as men surveyed t-shirt prices and looked at flyers or simple wandered around holding carrier bags and looking lost. I had my bag over my shoulder – I knew where I was. Then randomly snapping photographs of empty stages – to capture and collect our moments – our nights out on iphones and apps to announce our attendance through digital means to all our other ‘friends’ on pages and sites.
The rituals. The motions. All of us going through them.
There were no ‘special guests’ as promised. Just the incessant chug and fug of bass of the dub variety welcoming our hot bodies to relax and sway. I have always found the irony of the dub workout - the slow and [rock] steady rolls and rimshot – as a means to generate anger and edge in confined spaces as bass shakes walls and floors and minds become ever more frayed as the subsonic shifts moods and moves. And on and on it played. I could feel that filling room filling up with the feeling that they’d been cheated – if it says guests – then give us some – because we knew that this PILzone wouldn’t be in effect until 9pm. But somehow through the fleeting appearances of ‘guitar techs’ we knew that something would ‘appen. So we beared with. We waited.
And then – once his manager/ guard was in place – stage right, PIL towel down – ready for the masses and the bass –there was John – all Carharrt camouflage and caterwaul. Not pantomime villain – but well rehearsed singer. The sounds were shrill and dense – echoing and reverberating off walls. I had gone fearing that the chorus and shine of the guitar would distract from the heavy bass bottom end. It didn’t. With Lydon’s scowl and growl, his scream and shout sitting and swirling in the mix. This was not for the faint hearted. This is not a long song. This was no easy trawl through the greatest hits, so far – this was confined space and bass in your face. You could see the whites of his eyes but we knew he would do us no harm – it’s the politicians who do that – as he took us out to deeper water and we were happy to bathe in it. Right until the final electronic sounds of Open Up he meant it. For real – as it where. There wasn’t a shout for a Pistols tune – we were there for PIL. For this public image of John.
I guess I got lost in all of that – and found myself bouncing up and down. Wild abandon in North London. No one got hurt. We police ourselves.
On the tubetrain on the way home – Johnny Cash arrived to serenade the midnight marauders with his Folsom Prison Blues as two young punks drank bottled beers and shared their wonder with one another. And as the train stopped and the Olympic hoards jumped on board - I was struck by the fact that John still scares people. Clocked by a Team GB aficionado all indignant and self righteous – he looked at me and cursed in his suburban sounds that ‘he hadn’t seen anyone like those two fucking wastes of space on the Olympic field’ – trying to draw me in with a nod and a wink. All Daily Mail headlines – and leader columns – ‘Punks not Patriotic’. It’s if he wanted them to swap anarchy for Team GB. So he bristled and postured and muttered and he moaned all the while thinking I agreed but was just less confident to say it. What did he want me to do – lynch the fuckers?
I simply nodded. See as that other John said – the one who was vicious (so vicious) 'I’ve met the man on the street – and the man on the street is a cunt'.
I am an anarchist. Simple as that really. So is Lydon. It was good to be in his company. It was good to be with like minded people.