While the venue was slowly filling up, a man dressed in a suit with fluorescent yellow stripes and shoulders strode from back stage to front stage and back again. He studied the part of the balcony that was located above the stage. That had to be cleared and secured with a ribbon. Throughout the concert he was looking sternly from a corner of the stage. Was Johnny afraid of beer-throwers and stage divers? That was the only reference to the Sex Pistols days, as the audience behaved quite tame today. So this is what they look like now, the kids with “no future” of 40 years ago: late 50’s, bald and an old leather jacket that no longer fits over their beer belly.
The lights went out, the band came on, John Lydon last. A capella he sang the opening lines, then the band continued in the same double opening as the latest album What The World Needs Now: Double Trouble / Know Now. Immediately followed by a brilliant performance of This Is Not A Love Song.
The rhythm section laid down a very solid foundation, with a bass so deep it could not be heard, but that did resonate your sternum. If the rhythm section was reinforced concrete, the guitarist was the diamond drill. Abrasive, shrill, shrieking, whining, crying - but the guitar never managed to escape the iron grip of drums and bass. Also John's staccato vocals remained trapped in the mix and often were just another color in the palette of sounds. Although his singing was not dominating the music, John was the absolute focus of the venue: stage center. Only during a few ultra-short, surprisingly melodic guitar solos the spotlight shifted to the guitarist.
Slowly we slid into a trance in which the distinction between the separate songs faded. Were they new or old? Were they familiar or not? It did not matter, they all were chained by the rhythm section and the overall sound color. Thus time faded away, no beginning or end, no past or future, it came to a standstill. A feeling that you have when you're halfway a twelve month journey around the world, or, as someone told me, if you've smoked some good hasjies.
We landed back on earth with a long experimental psychedelic version of Religion. In the middle part there was just John's distorted voice over a delicate rhythmic touch of the drummer. At the end a chant: "Turn up the bass." That happened. The room turned into a vibrating plate, first shaking the fillings out of your teeth, and then the molars out of your jaws.
The encore consisted of tight performances of the crowd's favorites Public Image and Rise (with John's motto "anger is an energy"). John had pleasantly surprised us with an excellent band and an excellent show. As parting words he gave us Amsterdam's my second home, and this way we can change the system.
(*) Read more about Patti Smith at Paradiso