Sex Pistols : London Crystal Palace Sports Centre

We might as well be proud of them

“I can’t wait to read the bad review in NME!” sneers the pot-bellied curmudgeon formerly known as Johnny Rotten. Sorry, fat boy, but it’s time to kiss your flabby white Malibu-cockney arse. Because all bands formed post-’77 fall into two categories. Those influenced by the Sex Pistols (Nirvana, The Strokes, The Vines, Ikara Colt etc) and the rest. Who are shit.

No, this isn’t more my-idol’s-bigger-than-your-idol bollocks. This is no cheap holiday in somebody else’s Morrissey. The Sex Pistols were the last band to mean something to everyone. They were the folk devils who changed everything – art, politics, fashion, music – everything. Tonight they are by turns both astounding and unutterably shit. But fuck it, they could have walked on dressed in Tellytubby suits and done an acoustic set covering HearSay’s greatest hits – and it would still have been a total buzz. The support acts, however, might as well have stayed at home. The Rapture do a passable impression of Talking Heads. The Libertines give us The Jam. Both bands are obviously overawed. And the DJ is fucking lucky he isn’t crucified live on stage.

The Dropkick Murphys are great. Pogues-style punk with a fat bastard of a kilted bagpipe player called Mr Spicy McHaggis. The buzz builds. And is then deflated by And You Shall Know Us By The Trail Of Dead.

OK, so they introduce one song as ‘Fuck You. Fuck Everything WAAAAAAAUGH, We’re All Gonna Fucking Die!’, but then they just stand there and thunder to no great effect. And waste our fucking time. Time that could be better spent punkwatching – there are scruff punks, posh punks, ugh-punks, hunk-punks, beer-fat punks and smack-skinny punks and punk mums and punks dads pushing punk babies in safety-pin festooned punk prams (I kid you the fuck not). Dad in his original 1977 “Fuck The Jubilee” Oxfam jacket (now seven sizes too small) escorted by his terminally embarrassed nu-punk son. We’re talking total cross-generational Punkstock, maaaaaaaan!

The middle aged Bristol punks are grunting “Reason! Reason!” (from the first chorus of ‘Holidays In The Sun’) and the west London footie-hoolie punks are responding with “uh-ZULU!” and the atmosphere is suitably intimidating. But both sets of bad boys shut the fuck up when the Pistols run on stage and smash their way straight into an ultra-ironic cover version of the hippy classic ‘Silver Machine’. Which leaves them all – especially Steve Jones – looking absolutely knackered.

They are ace – ‘Pretty Vacant’. And they are shit – ‘Belsen Was A Gas’. And they are fat and flabby and probably stink of piss – the way old folks do. And between songs, John Lydon – a curious cross between Victor Meldrew and an espresso-overdosed ferret – roundly curses the Queen Mum and Tony Blair. “Never trust a toff!” he snarls, with real anger. “Never, ever, ever!” It is ugly and beautiful and witty and stupid and bitter and twisted. And magnificently, tragically English.

Pig-ignorant genius – it’s all that really stops us just being Americans with bad teeth. Face it – these dead-donkey flogging, money-grabbing fat fuckers are us. The best of us and the worst of us. The Sex Pistols are the living heart and soul of a nation of drunken barbarian scum. We might as well be proud of them.

Steven Wells