Even now and then, John Lydon likes to keep his admirers on edge. While fans thronged to Main Stage rival Jay-Z's camp (not like you could hope for a sight of Shawn Carter himself), and Jay greeted his crowd cordially by thanking them for the wait, Public Image Limited's small but devoted fanbase languished at the nearby Outdoor Theatre as Lydon's group trumpeted the call of vague “technical issues!”
When they finally took the stage, Lydon immediately pushed an agenda informed by years of serving as a punk legend. “You want an antidote to Jay-Z?” Lydon asked. “Take a PiL!” Fronting a bandful of journeyman veterans, Lydon flaunted a familiar devil-may-care attitude in performing the back catalogue of his thirty-year pet project, but if anything his increasingly technical vocals, a decidedly non-punk front, and experienced band did more justice to his songbook than ever before.
However, you've lately gotta temper the expectations for the guy. Though he's been a fixture since his tenure as lead singer Johnny Rotten in the Sex Pistols, Lydon isn't the polemic he used to be. Appearing in the guise of full-on pajama mode replete with soccer hooligan Adidas, Lydon's personal style screams the rift compared with when Sex Pistols manager and recent dead guy Malcolm McLaren kick-started his his hard-nosed image.
Though the band bounded through their shortened set and Lydon seemed more tuned in than ever, it's possible that the line is blurring between Lydon's careerist antic–an ongoing disdain for dinosaur rock, fashion poseurs, and Salinger-esque fakers–and the Coachella rumblings of his own Tyrannosaur feet. But although Lydon has passed his expiration date, his triumphant showing confirmed that even as he joins the Old Guard he used to disdain, losing his influence would be a hard PiL (hardy har) to swallow. –Mike Orme