Public Image Ltd, Academy, Birmingham
Julian Casablancas, Forum, London

Even though John Lydon is flogging butter on the telly, his Public Image is above criticism

Old Man Steptoe leers over his lectern, and lectures. "Seventeen seconds, or 17 years. It will be worth the money. This is the band who taught all the other second-rate wankers out there how to play. I do apologise..."

He speaks the truth. In Public Image Ltd, John Lydon is in his element. During the last round of Pistols reunions, in his Rotten persona, he pointedly wore a PiL shirt on stage.

In 1977, while still a Sex Pistol first time round, Rotten amazed fans by appearing on Tommy Vance's Capital Radio show and choosing nothing but obscure reggae records. It was a hint of what was to come. Public Image Ltd broke punk's DNA wide open, unravelled the rainbow and reconnected it into new shapes, using deep dub and funk noir. Post-punk starts with PiL.

It would take a fusspot or a fool to complain about a band who, from the first "Hello, hello, hello!" to the climactic "Anger is an energy!" (in a set that's more than two hours long), are note-perfect. Highlights are "Poptones" ("Shame on you," he mocks. "It's a song about getting raped, and you're applauding"), the provocateur-funk of "This Is Not a Love Song", a rockin' "Annalisa", a surprise encore of Leftfield & Lydon's "Open Up" and a double-length "Flowers of Romance".

Even so, you're always waiting for a song to end, just to see what he'll say next. Lydon is the ultimate pop hero: a working-class autodidact with Celtic ginger hair, an intellectual (oh, how he'd spit at that term) who recognises the intellectual's duty to antagonise.

He never ducks that duty. Swigging Martell and gobbing it into an ice bucket like it's dentist's mouthwash, he puts one finger to his nostril and expels snot through the other. "Notice," he caws, "I spit away from other human beings. Something those silly punks who read The Sun got wrong."

While he's in the mood for setting the world to rights, lest anyone in the English Defence League misunderstand lyrics like "This is our country... we will never surrender", Lydon follows "Warrior" by stating, "Great Britain is a mixed country and we like it that way. The only people who have to leave are the politicians."

He cleverly sidesteps any "sell-out" heckles regarding his recent hawking of dairy products dressed as a British country sire. When his trousers start falling down past his skinny arse, he cackles, "Fackin' 'ell. All that butter, and I've still lost weight."

So, the race is on. On the one hand, there's "West End" Joe McElderry doing a Miley Cyrus song. On the other, there's the internet campaign to stop The X Factor winner by getting everyone to buy a petulantly sweary Rage Against the Machine single. Crushed in the middle there's the valiant but doomed Facebook group trying to stop both of them with Darlene Love's immaculate Spector classic "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)".

What's gone almost unnoticed, among all the fuss, is that someone's released a decent Christmas song that's actually about Christmas this year. And that someone, most surprisingly of all, is slack-mouthed Strokes singer Julian Casablancas, whose cover of the Saturday Night Live crew's "I Wish It Was Christmas Today" is a Ramones-meets-Wizzard cracker. Of course, before we get to that inevitable festive finale, audiences at JC's solo shows have to stand through the bulk of his Phrazes for the Young, whose Wildean title becomes even more ironic when confronted with the wit-starved stage presence of Casablancas. "Wooh shit yeah!" he quips, slumped over the mic. "You guys are fuckin' awesome. Shit yeah!" Johnny Rotten he ain't.

In fairness, his solo material isn't bad, from the space-age Nashville of "Ludlow St" to the crazed, atonal funfair bleeps of "River of Breaklights" (sic), and his six-piece backing band are more haywire than the tightly drilled quartet who usually stand behind him. "Fuck yeah London, how you doin' tonight?" he asks during a lull, then displays the briefest flicker of self-awareness – "I have to say that" – before the amiable airhead reverts to type with "OK, let's do this shit".

He isn't called back for an encore, but does one anyway. Calls for "Last Nite" or "Juicebox" are fruitless. Instead, we're palmed off with a Strokes B-side, "I'll Try Anything Once". Embarrassingly, Casablancas doesn't know the words. Fortunately, neither does anyone else.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)

comedy

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own