When John Lydon abandoned his rotten persona along with the Sex Pistols in 1978, he complained in song that his fans "never listened to a word that I said." Six years later, Lydon's lament remains as valid, as he and his post-Pistols band, Public Image Ltd., learned at the Ontario Theatre Wednesday night.
Playing to a punked-out crowd of impatient fans who had been waiting for more than four hours to hear PiL, the singer did not suffer his Sex Pistols legacy gladly, pushing interlopers off the stage and angrily warning that the fans "had better stop gobbing me." Nonetheless, the legend won out as the fans persisted in their dubious displays of affection, to the consternation of the band and the eventual detriment of the performance.
A shame, really, because the current PiL is worth hearing. Not only did the band render muscular versions of such funk-based recent efforts as "Bad Life" and "This Is Not a Love Song," but they more than matched the intensity of Lydon's venomous delivery on "Religion," "Annalisa," and even "Bodies," the show's sole Sex Pistols song. But until his audience learns to listen, most of Lydon's strengths will go unheard.