Thirty years on it has come to this: sharing a venue with a Disney on Ice production, and with the tour co-promoted by a video game (‘Guitar Hero III: The Legends of Rock’) Sex Pistols come on stage to the strains of ‘I Belong to Glasgow,’ with John Lydon’s declaration that ‘you were robbed.’
Until this is expanded with a derogatory line about Italians, it could have been an updating of his famous ‘ever get the feeling, you’ve been cheated?’ outburst of the seventies.
It, nevertheless, encapsulates the comedic, crowd-pleasing aspect of this latest reunion, but rarely, even at £35 per ticket, can there be too many grumbles. All of ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ gets an airing (though not in sequence), augmented by some cover versions, b-sides and singles to make up an hour and ten minutes worth of material.
For a band who only released one album, it is testimony to their significance that anyone still cares and, more remarkably, that it still works.
Cook, Matlock and Jones provide the solid hard rock backing with a degree of proficiency no-one would have imagined in 1977, and Lydon is on great form too: arrogant and self-effacing, the most contrary frontman in rock history has razor sharp put-downs for the spitters and beer-chuckers in the front rows.
In addition, his targets (the monarchy, politicians, record companies and Malcolm McLaren) retain their fascination and the bile with which ‘God Save The Queen,’ ‘E.M.I.’ and ‘Liar’ are delivered make them the highlights of the show.
As reformations go, this sits well between this decade’s versions of Roxy Music and the New York Dolls: a reminder of past greatness performed with zest and guile, coated in, but relatively unencumbered by its audacious cynicism. Absurdly good.