I saw Public Image Ltd. last night in NYC. I had forgotten how much of a role PiL played in my own musical journey. How their quintessential albums were the soundtrack of my college years (along with all the emerging, unknown and dime-a-dozen metal bands). As I "prepped" to see PiL and listened to the albums, I still knew every word, nuance and associated them all with moments of a different time in my life. PiL infiltrated our freshman year playlists of Slayer, Metallica, Helloween, Danzig, Rage, Anthrax and Testament through their connection to the Sex Pistols (via Johnny Rotten). Their electronic sound didn't match the metal machine gun fire we drank cheap beer to, but the energy and youthful aggression was there nonetheless. It is probably because of their "sound" that I had never really considered myself a huge PiL fan, but I realized that music is a time machine and this band brought me back to the late 80s and early 90s. I now realize they were the reason I easily got into early 2000s bands like Stellastar, Interpol and She Wants Revenge. To see the iconic Johnny Rotten (now John Lydon) in a small room, still of perfect voice and performance was a treat. I took a few moments during the show soak in the fact that it is he who was the face and voice of punk that created the direction and sound of the bands that influenced me growing up. Finally, I can't quite describe it, but there was a sort of appreciation of the moment by Lydon that I had only seen in two other performers. Most "rock stars" have a distance when on stage - even in the smallest rooms. You can almost feel like it's their "job" to be there. When I saw Dio about a year before he died, it was so clear he LOVED what he was doing on stage and doing it for the people in the crowd. He smiled throughout the whole show. The second guy was this past summer when I saw RUSH from the front row. Geddy was clearly having the time of his life on this final tour and soaking in the moments and the first few rows of the crowd. All throughout the PiL show, when John thanked the crowd it felt real. When I saw them in Philly in 1990 (I think) he portrayed over-the-top disgust for his celebrity. Someone gave him a bouquet of roses at that show and he said a line a friend and I still quote from time to time in full on British accent "Flowers? For me? How aaawwwful." But last night there was a look on his face that made a connection. Like he was beyond the angry punk and the bitter new wave man and he had entered the philosopher mode. His recital of rallies against religion, corporations and the typical political fare were still honest, but spoken from a seasoned voice - not a reactive adolescent saying things to stir the pot. He enjoyed imparting his own views of the world and smiled instead of sneered. When they left the stage he looked at the audience and said, "I want you all to remember that we see all of your faces. Good night. Good evening and good morrow." The punk is still in there somewhere, but he knows his job of amping up the youth is previous part of his life. He, like Dio and Geddy, now seems to realize the role he has played in his audience's life and doesn't take it for granted. He relishes it and honors it. Seems like an odd thing to say about Johnny Rotten, but it was an awesome moment in an intimate crowd... an excellent experience.