Sex Pistols; Carling Academy, Brixton London, Monday November 12
James McMahon finally gets to see his favourite band ever… or rather his ex-favourite band ever
I’ve waited 30 years to see the Sex Pistols and I wasn’t even born for three of them. 1977’s sole release, ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’, is my favourite album ever made: less a collection of songs – as incendiary and thrilling as they undoubtedly are – than the basis for a belief system. Those songs and their auteurs taught me to question the world, that creativity and intelligence should be valued and fostered and to always believe in change and progress.
These guiding principles had already taken a battering the week prior to tonight’s show when I’d finally come face to face with my hero, singer John Lydon, at a press conference in east London. That night he’d mused that England had “too many foreigners”, verbally abused an almost-mute female French photographer by repeatedly calling her “a fucking whore” and admitted he was a Tory voter. When I expressed my distaste he threw a microphone at me. It didn’t matter that he missed; he’d already broken my heart. Tonight’s show merely closes the deal.
It’s not simply that this reformation reeks of cash-in, as the Pistols have long made a career out of money for madness, even naming their 1996 reunion the Filthy Lucre tour. And it’s not just the crowd, though if
a band’s audience is a reflection of itself this mirror needs a thorough, comprehensive cleaning. It’s not even that the wealth of brilliant songs at their disposal limp along at half speed and sound nothing like you remember – it’s literally excruciating to hear what listless, insipid, comic non-entities ‘Anarchy In The UK’, ‘Submission’ and my all-time favourite song, ‘Bodies’, have become.
No, the source of the rot is that, in Lydon’s imitation of Dale Winton doing Roy Chubby Brown doing Vyvyan from The Young Ones, the Pistols have lost all the danger, raunch and anti-establishment brilliance that made them such a special, unique band. Witness Steve Jones, the man responsible for my favourite-ever guitar sound, puffing and wheezing stage right and now sounding like he’s playing through the setup of an ’80s poodle-perm rocker. Tragically, the Sex Pistols are now just a band. And, on tonight’s showing, not even a very good one.
At their ‘final’ show in 1978 Lydon addressed the crowd with a sneer of, “Ever got the feeling you’ve been cheated?” Just under 30 years later,
in a room smelling mainly of trump, my heart sighed the same sentiment.
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