"I was there!" is the rather bold if somewhat untrue statement that tends to be uttered by the local punks of my generation when you refer to a show played by Messer's Rotten and Co at Newport's Stowaway Club. The same for the legendary Anarchy Tour show at Caerphilly Castle Cinema (I still can't believe Johnny Thunders has been to, never mind played, Caer-fucking-philly) in 1976.
The sad fact is, that if everyone who says they were there, were actually in attendance you would be looking at venues the size of Brixton Academy to house them all.
However, such is the legend that still surrounds the band that within minutes of going on sale, tonight's show, their first in 5 years, is "SOLD OUT". As a result four more dates at Brixton were promptly added, as were shows in Glasgow and Manchester for the 30th Anniversary celebrations of "Never Mind The Bollocks" UK release.
I had personally vowed never
to cross the band live again after 2002's awful Crystal Palace Silver Jubilee
gig, where they were under rehearsed, and frankly not worth the admission fee.
I really did leave there with the feeling I had been cheated.
But with the recent vinyl reissues proudly sitting in my collection and sounding somewhere not short of fantastic 30 years on, the last minute chance of some stalls tickets had re ignited the embers of interest I have with this fabulous disaster of a band, and before I could think about Crystal Palace, I was on my way to London.
So at a little after 9:30 the strains of Vera Lynn's "There'll Always Be An England" echo in the grandiose surroundings of the Academy, the irony lost on 95% of the crowd, and Mr Lydon (as he now prefers to be known) introduces himself to the "Pretty Vacant" in the shape of their signature tune.
God, was this the same band that scarred a nation?
They almost seemed, dare I say it? "Nervous", as they ripped out "No Feelings" and "Liar" with Jones, Cook and Matlock heads down concentrating on delivering the musical goods.
The roar of 2,000 pissed up forty-somethings was too much for Lydon to resist, with his constant baiting and caustic wit prevalent throughout the show. He had after all taken the stage dressed like a country gent and professed to have been pheasant shooting prior to the nights show.
With the arrival of "Holidays
In The Sun" it suddenly dawned on me that Lydon's tendency to deliver his
vocals in a more P.I.L style was only ever going to alienate those here simply
for nostalgia rather than history (to quote the man himself). So expect some
negative press eh guys?
It was only his rather throwaway comments about Malcolm McLaren being on "I'm A Celebrity" as an introduction to "Holidays" where I thought he was perhaps unnecessarily being, shall we say ."difficult".
Their was a time back in my childhood where I would cue up all my Pistols 7 inchers on that long centre spindle you used to get as standard on Ferguson stereos, and simply loose myself in the joyous racket that erupted. Tonight's hour-long set was just like that but updated for the digital age. I mean "New York", "Submission" and a rampant "EMI" how could you not get a semi solid on with a set list like that?
It was with the set closing
"Anarchy", "Bodies" and "Belsen" (tonight re titled
Baghdad Was A Blast) that the crowd finally clicked into gear, with the ground
floor breaking out into "mini pits".
This show exorcised a gig ghost for me, (that being Crystal Palace). It was never going to quite match the orgasm of seeing KISS in full make up, but it certainly was The Bollocks.
by Johnny H.
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