Audiences at Voodoo Music + Arts Experience on Saturday were not created equal in numbers or expressions of appreciation.
Saturday night, Jane’s Addiction, featuring original members Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro and Stephen Perkins, let loose its supercharged hybrid of rock and punk at the Altar Stage, the festival’s biggest performance space. A correspondingly large crowd stood in the soggy, muddy field facing the stage.
The roar made by Jane’s Addiction could be heard all the way to the Carnival Stage, where one of music’s most influential figures was preparing to perform, Fortunately, Jane’s Addiction stopped in time for John Lydon and his post-Sex Pistols band, Public Image Ltd., to start their hour-long set of powerfully throbbing, droning, trance-like post-punk music.
Public Image Ltd. drew a much smaller crowd than Jane’s Addiction, but the audience packed itself close to the stage, cheering approval for Lydon and PiL. The PiL lineup features veteran members Lu Edmonds, guitar and saz (a lute-like Turkish instrument); drummer Bruce Smith; and Scott Firth, bassist since 2009.
In his songs, the dressed-in-stripes Lydon played dual roles of comic and enraged social critic. He wailed his lyrics distinctively and rolled his Rs prodigiously.
PiL played songs from its 2014 album, such as “Double Trouble,” Lydon’s rap-rant about plumbing gone wrong. Also “Know Know,” in which he furiously insists his need to “not know you!” In “Bettie Page,” another new song, Lydon lionized the classic American nude model, to the point of bestowing revolutionary status.
PiL also offered full-on versions of its classics. Lydon raged through the band’s biggest hit, 1983’s “This Is Not a Love Song,” as Edmonds and Firth played the song’s killer, wonderfully simple riff. “Swan Lake,” from 1979, featured the spooky riff that PiL lifted from Tchaikovsky’s ballet of the same name. It was a great choice for Halloween night at Voodoo Experience, in no small part because “Swan Lake” is the theme for the 1931 horror movie classic, “Dracula.”
“I think we can squeeze one more in,” Lydon announced minutes before heavy-metal icon Ozzy Osbourne started his 9:30 p.m. show at the Altar Stage, the music from which would obviously bleed into the Carnival Stage area. “Let’s began as quickly as we can,” Lydon instructed his PiL men.
Lydon, who’s described himself as an Irish folk singer, bid adieu with the Celtic-sounding anthem, “Rise.” Uplifting counterpoint to the negativity associated with the Sex Pistols and the thousands of punk bands that followed, “Rise” is a song of hope.
“May the road rise with you,” Lydon repeated throughout the song’s chorus. Good wishes, indeed, on a rainy night that got rainier still.