I debated a while if I would be able to go to this one due to the price and expensive times but of course I was going to be there. It’s John Lydon and Public Image Ltd. Even better I discovered when booking a ticket was that support was from Brix Smith.
The UEA seems to have become a sensory minefield of signs, rules, barriers, cashless payments (cashless downstairs but not upstairs?!) and changed systems but there was an extremely helpful security chap who in answer to my question as I was arriving was able to tell me when Brix was due onstage. It was half an hour away so time for a quick drink beforehand, where it was great to bump into some old friends and have a quick catch up before we heard the sounds of Brix starting her set right on cue so we were straight up there in moments as I didn’t want to miss this. Many others had the same idea and there was a good sized crowd for her set. Brix was in good form, chatty and engaging, energetic and looking the picture of health, she was extremely enthusiastic about her band. A band member down due to illness but the line up still included two members of My Bloody Valentine! This was not Brix and the Extricated from her last Norwich visit but a completely new project which she is clearly exited and passionate about although she and the band did also perform a wonderful Totally Wired after she said she remembered playing the LCR a couple of times back in those 1980s Fall days. I remember too and was also at those gigs. She closed the set with a lockdown collaboration with Killing Joke’s Youth which she felt captured all the feelings, worries, isolation and uncertainties of those crazy couple of years.
With the Extricated currently on hiatus, she’s now taking a fresh solo direction, releasing an album of brand new recordings as Brix Smith, the LP’s vibe described as ‘dystopian California’, working with Killing Joke bass player and production legend Youth, writing and recording in Spain and remotely – from her bedroom in Shoreditch, East London, amid pandemic lockdowns – on a set of new songs she says, ‘I’m really proud of’.
“This is the record I wanted to make before The Adult Net, and serves as the perfect follow-up, more than 30 years later. With Youth I’m able to realise what I always heard in my head but was never previously able to put down on tape. It’s taken a lifetime of listening, learning and grafting for everything to fall into place.”
There will be live shows too, Brix promises, revealing …
“I’ve put together an all-woman band for this project. It’s time for me to standup and put my head above the parapet, put my money where my mouth is,having been a strong woman in the music industry for however many years.I’m gonna make the mother**** of all-girl bands … with Youth as a guest star!” * – From https://www.brixsmith.com/about
I did actually see Brix in the audience during the interval and told her how much I enjoyed the set, happily she signed my ticket.
The LCR seemed to fill up even more ahead of PiL’s set and the place felt full without being uncomfortably packed out, much to my relief as the LCR can feel over-full when it is at capacity and the heat would have been unbearable. Anyway, John and the incredible musicians who form the stable Public Image Ltd. line-up (Bruce Smith, Lu Edmonds, Scott Firth) were loudly cheered and greeted onstage and then they opened the set with the mighty Religion, what a start with this pounding, ever heavier bass. John seemed trim, in good spirits and in very fine form, engaging with the audience between songs (including his thoughts on the Pistols series) and including The Body, Warrior, Death Disco, Bags, Chant, Disappointed, This is Not a Love Song, the final few songs in particular having everyone singing along and joining John’s call and response, the crowd going particularly nuts when the set closed with Public Image. We weren’t done yet though and had a strong three-song encore of Shoom, then the collaboration with Leftfield on the extraordinary Open Up and the wonderful feel of the parting Rise. A great way to end the 17 song set. As he was leaving John revealed that he once lived in Norwich for a short time, strengthening the bond even further with the audience who hold him in such high regard. A much respected and genuine living legend. I’ve been to all of PiL’s Norwich visits stretching back 39 years and we’ve been blessed with several returns since 2015 – I honestly think each time has somehow managed to surpass the last (and that’s saying something – I have loved them all!). This was a truly superb performance and gig, everyone was buzzing afterwards. As if the night could get any better I even managed to get John’s signature on my ticket too, alongside that of Brix. I’m so thankful for this.
I’m not so keen on this move towards the cashless digital world but thank goodness I printed off my “e-ticket” (why do we have to pay 10% handling charges/booking fees for automated emails?) because you can’t get an app signed. Huge thanks to John and Public Image Ltd. and Brix for an outstandingly good night, and to the friends I happened to see as well, this one will live long in the memory. One of those really special music nights when everything felt right. Sometimes I go to a gig that is so good that I don’t actually want to see any other gig too soon afterwards as I just want to occupy that headspace, inhabit and re-live the fresh memories of it for as long as possible. Yes, this was one of those special ones.