I have to admit that I didn’t really know too much about John Lydon when I booked tickets to see him on his UK-speaking tour. However, when I find out he was coming to Wimborne in Dorset I knew that it was too good of an opportunity to miss even if meant I had set off at half-five after work!
John was in town touring to promote his new book I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right (named from the popular PiL song Rise).
Though small in stature, the Tivoli Theatre is big in character – a grand old Art Deco palace that has seen the great and the good cross through its doors over the decades. A real treat to see it lit up in all its refinery on a cold wet night!
By the time I had parked up, the show had almost started. Spilling out of the front doors were a sea of people, many looking as if they had just walked off the set of Sid & Nancy: in their tartan leggings, well-worn leather jackets, faded and Pistols t-shirts. Those not adorning Punk regalia were dressed for a wedding reception or for a particularly long lunch at the clubhouse. I guess Mr. Rotten attracts all sorts!
As I made my way to my seat, I realised that this was a sell-out show with only a handful of empty seats left. Now only a few minutes left until the man himself would appear, the atmosphere was completely buzzing!
On the small stage were just two chairs, two microphones, and a small table. Nothing more was needed – what a great opener!
When John finally appeared from behind the red curtain he was treated to the most thunderous of applauses, almost receiving a standing ovation before he’d said a word!
From the moment he stepped on stage the man treated the audience like old friends popping around for a chat. This laidback informal approach was a real relief to me as I’d been to similar book events over the years, many by musicians, where the whole thing ends up feeling like one big PR exercise performed to a paying audience.
For me, if I pay to hear someone speak, I want them to engaging and entertaining, honest and without the bullshit. Every sentence doesn’t need to be a perfect soundbite or feel like a TED Talk, just from the heart is all that matters. Which is why John Lydon was worth every penny!
Over roughly two hours, John spoke about his life and career, starting off as a kid in a rough North London neighborhood, to the highs and lows of I’m A Celebrity…
Whatever you think of John, good or bad, it is clear that he has led an interesting, diverse, and exciting career as a musician, and more recently, as a public figure.
To close the show, John answered questions from the audience (written on special-made cards in the lobby) on subjects that ranged from pickled eggs, the current state of punk, to obscure cover versions and the natural world! I won’t divulge the details as I think that would take away some of the intimacy of the show but rest assured that everyone with a question went home happy!
As a grand finale, John ended the show with a sing-along of Rise.
Let me tell you it was quite the experience to be part of a chorus of three hundred people all singing the same song: all emotionally invested in the words. A very moving end to the show – an experience I’ll never forget.
I think I’ll end this blog entry with my favourite question of the night:
‘Way back in 1977, did you ever think you’d end up saying the immortal words “Hello Wimborne!’