Public Image Limited: Live at Rockpalast DVD Review: A Must for PiL Fans

John Lydon at the top of his game.
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When John Lydon formed Public Image Ltd. in 1978, nobody knew what to make of it at first. With the implosion of the Sex Pistols and the death of Sid Vicious, it first appeared that he was taking a step back from the abyss. And since the first PiL album has never been issued in the States (to this day), fans had little to go on but word of mouth. That all changed with the release of Metal Box/Second Edition though. The music Lydon, Jah Wobble, Keith Levene, and Jim Walker were making was some of the most amazing stuff out there. A lot of people consider PiL to be the first “post-punk” group, and I am one of them.

PiL RockpalastThe third and final album to be recorded with Wobble and Levene was The Flowers of Romance in 1981. With so much talent in the band, squabbles were inevitable. Wobble, Levene, and Walker had all left PiL by 1983. It is too bad, because that was the year that the new DVD Public Image Limited (not properly abbreviated): Live At Rockpalast was filmed.

Even with three-quarters of the original members gone, this was a great time to catch PiL live. For one thing there are the drums. Jim Walker had been replaced by Martin Atkins after the first album, and he brought a whole other thing to the game. At this show they perform material from the first three records, and throw in a couple of curve-balls as well. The performance took place at Zeche Bochum, Germany on Halloween night, 1983. PiL take the stage to the strains of “Public Image,” which they repeat at the end of the evening as their closer. In between we are treated to 11 songs, and every one is delivered with a powerful menace.

From the first album we get “Annalisa,” “Religion,” and “Low Life.” From Metal Box the group pulls “Memories,” and “Chant.” And from The Flowers of Romance we are treated to the title track and “Under The House.” Surprises include a run-through of The Pistols’ “Anarchy In The UK,” and a preview of what would become PiL’s big hit single, “(This Is Not A) Love Song.”

Apparently this concert has been previously available on VHS, and the quality of it was terrible. Not so with this DVD. It is obvious that the people at MIG had access to the masters because both the video and audio of the performance is superb. There are two bonus features included. The first is an interview with Lydon by Rockpalast host Alan Berg. The second features candid footage of the group rehearsing for the concert.

Although it would have been nice to see the original lineup of PiL in action, it does not appear that there is any footage (other than poor-quality bootlegs) of them available. Live At Rockpalast will do nicely though. Both the songs chosen and the performances of them are incredible, and present Lydon at the top of his game. This is a must for PiL fans.

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