Friday, 13 June 2008

The Sex Pistols @ Birmingham Academy. June 11th.

Review and photo by Simon Bamford

The Sex Pistols are tonight playing a warm up show for their festival appearances this summer - The Combine Harvester Tour. John Lydon, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Glen Matlock take to the stage to the tune; ‘There Will Always Be An England’ - "It's good to see you. Remember, we are your friends, not enemies", exclaims Lydon.

Jonesy kicks into the instantly recognisable intro riff to ‘Pretty Vacant’ and the crowd go wild. The band deliver a clattering version of the classic; a little loose but energetic and raucous. The song still sounds great 30 years on; surely the true test of any tune? "A word of advice to those arseholes chucking beer. Beer is for drinking, you mugs!" "Go on John! I've been waiting years for someone to say that to those idiots", I think to myself. Lydon's never held back with his opinions and it's refreshing to hear him putting people in their place - the beer throwing trend has always baffled me. Arseholes indeed.

Next up for offer is ‘New York’ and the band seem to be warming up (as is the room). The set tonight is a lean one, consisting of tracks from Never Mind The Bollocks and B sides of singles thereof. ‘Did You No Wrong’ sees Matlock and Jones playfully joining in on backing vocals; as much to help Lydon out as anything. No one would expect the impossible re-creation of the amphetamine fuelled original vocals, but he is having some trouble up there. No matter, he's a fantastic front man and in good form; honest enough to admit that he's "strugglin up here. I'm winded, it's so hot I need to go and put my head in a bucket of ice. I got two poxy mineral waters and it aint cuttin it". The band kick into ‘Liar’, the air is both electric and superheated. "Oh I do like to be beside the sea side", the former Mr Rotten sings before they launch into ‘Holidays in the Sun’. People push past me gasping for air and are dragged over the barrier rescued from the heat of the pogoing crowd.

Next up is ‘Baghdad is a Blast’, a lyrical re-work of ‘Belsen Was a Gas’. Lydon gets the crowd chanting "Allah, Allah." Dangerous? Perhaps. Next, a blistering ‘Submission’. The opening riff makes my spine tingle; classic punk energy enfuses the tune.The Pistols play furiously. Then it's ‘Stepping Stone’ and ‘No Fun’. Ironic to watch the band playing the Stooges cover while they were obviously having a lot of fun. There was no disguising the fact that after all the problems, they actually seem to be getting on with each other and enjoying themselves. Next, a fiery run through of ‘Problems’ and they leave the stage.

The first encore consisted of blistering versions of ‘God Save the Queen’ and ‘EMI’ and again they left the stage with Lydon exclaiming, "You'd better make more noise than last time if you want any more!" Back on again and up for offer was ‘Bodies’. Then ‘Anarchy in the UK’ closed the night’s frivolities. I could not see drummer Paul Cook from where I was standing, but the other band members were drenched in sweat and its fair to assume the drummer was equally (or worse) so.

The Pistols played their arses off up there and the fifty-odd- year-olds could put many a younger band to shame with their energy and attitude. Old punks never die! They do however, suffer heat exhaustion - "and we don't care!"

(Photo from previous gig at The Brixton Academy)

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