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Latest incarnation of Johnny Rotten
By Brian Offenther

RIGHT on par with "Never was so much owed by so many to so few," Johnny Rotten stood on stage in San Francisco on January 14, 1978, and declared what would be the opening words and manifesto to Public Image Ltd.

"Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"

With that, the singer-songwriter shed his stage name for his Christian one (Lydon), quit his overwrought punk band (The Sex Pistols) and set forth to create a new genre (post-punk).

Lydon and his Public Image Ltd cohorts will be following up the resonating vibrations from that declaration for the first time in Shanghai, where he is set to play this Sunday at 8pm at Mao Livehouse (308 Chongqing Rd). Tickets are 280 yuan (US$45.20) in advance, or 360 yuan at the door.

Less than a year after played that last show with The Sex Pistols, he released the first Public Image Ltd album, "Public Image."

The album introduced the concept of post-punk, namely taking the intensity and sub-conscious anger present in much of punk, unwinding its rapid-fire rhythm, and adding layers of repetitive percussion and grooves. Added to that: often copious amounts of noise.

One of these highlights is "Death Disco," a surprising hit in the UK for Public Image Ltd in 1979. The track is available in China for free download as an MP3 on the website www.top100.cn, along with much of the rest of the band's catalog.

As Lydon has done slyly over his entire career, the song is a takeoff on current pop culture, namely, disco. Along with the fairly standard disco beat from the drums, though, comes a fury of noisy guitar and Lydon's warbling yell.

"Death Disco" was released in conjunction with the band's second album ("Metal Box"), which would continue the bands dig into deeper and deeper experimental music.

By 1984's "This What You Want ... This is What You Get," the band made its first surprising move into music with a more accessible flavor, including songs influenced by the then-popular new wave movement (see: "Duran Duran," "A Flock of Seagulls," etc).

By 1992 and their album "That What is Not," the band had shown heavy influence of the burgeoning electronic music scene.

After an extended hiatus following that album, Lydon reformed the band three years ago and took them on tour.

I saw them twice on tour in 2011, in New York City, the band still shocking to the uninitiated, Lydon digging under the surface to investigate how he is being cheated.

Still, as a music fan in China, one has to be cautious, even with the concert so close. Recent shut-downs of clubs, cancellations of shows, venue technical problems and one highly controversial band lead one to question whether the proposed show will lead the audience to ask the same question that launched the band they want to see.

Let's hope not.

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