As the saying goes "Punk is dead", but the Sex Pistols challenged that notion, along with what punk really is when they performed at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto on August 25. Fronted by the hardcore rock-a-billy band Reverend Horton Heat, and Irish punk band Dropkick Murphys, the crowd was ready to witness the musical legends who revolutionized the punk rock scene in the 1970's and 80's.
Even if you are not a huge fan, the Sex Pistols are legendary for dramatic shows and they definitely lived up to their reputation at the Molson Amphitheatre. The Sex Pistols came on stage to take their place in front of their British influenced flag and were greeted by anxious fans and foes who waited to get a glimpse of the famous Johnny Rotten. Once they got on stage, fans cheered, pushed forward and the first song "Bodies" egged the crowd on to sing and rock away with them. Joined by Glen Matlock (the original bassist), the memory of Sid Vicious was upheld by adoring fans who cloned him.
Steve Jones and Glen Matlock stood with their backs to the crowd showing off British flags on their butts. Johnny Rotton, however stole the crowd with his hot blond hair with a blue streak that went from the front of his part to the back of his head, and his blue checkered sleeveless Sex Pistols shirt and baggy navy jump suit pants. This was definitely not the punk fashion style of the 70's, but Rotton's energy got the crowd going, and by the third song Rotton was confronted with a sign in the crowd in front of the stage that said "you still suck". His cocky British response was "I may suck, but I won't suck you off". The crowd went crazy with agreement. The comment rolled off his back and he jumped around on stage as if he was 17 again.
He continued by singing "No feelings" and then made fun of the punk wanabes by saying "say hello to god (referring to himself) - you ain't punk!", and "you ain't nothing but a skunk". Despite this the fans cheered anyways and waited for more music. The Pistols then played "God Save the Queen", and people started to crowd surf and get into it. But the crowd in front of Rotton also started spitting on him (another punk revolutionized antic) and Rotton stopped the music and started to tell off the crowd for spitting on him. He left the stage angry and said "I hope you enjoy socialism because it sure fuc*** you up the a**!"
The lights went down and the crowd buzzed with confusion, excitement and disappointment but they were not going to give up easily so they chanted and waited for the Pistols to come back on stage. After 15 minutes the band came back and Rotton dramatically but carefully placed a little black box in front centre stage for him to stand on so no one would spit on him. Everyone laughed. He continued to make fun of the crowd and sang "No fun" and during the song, he cursed Toronto.
After "Liar" people continued to spit on Rotton so he asked the crowd why they were still spitting. No one replied. So he said "I came to Toronto two months ago. You gave me SARS, but I don't need your Aids". His insults hit below the belt so the crowd booed the comment. But Rotton was full of come back and bitter antics. The crowd was rocking again despite the comments when "Pretty Vacant" was played.
By this time two different guys ran on stage to try and touch the famous band members, but were quickly escorted off stage. The second guy that got on stage ran over to Rotton with a cigarette in his mouth and leaned in to say something to him but fell on top of him. Rotton pushed him off and said "get off the stage fat-ty". Then after some more songs Rotton answered a question that everyone was waiting to hear. He said "I may be fifty (years old), but I'm fifty f****n' years ahead of the competition!!" Everyone cheered and they finished off with "Anarchy in the UK" which referring to anarchy and the roots of punk and then "Problems".
They said good bye, and Rotton's spirits seemed back to a positive state as they walked off the stage leaving the crowd buzzing with conversation. You could hear everyone talking about Rotton's comments. People seemed excited with all the politics, and people were imitating Rotton"s accent as they walked away from the concert. The next day radio reporters were talking about the show and one commented by saying that he thought is was really sad that Rotton was getting pissed off at the crowd for spitting when he started the tradition himself. Mixed reviews continue to be discussed, however I think one thing can be agreed upon by everyone. The attitude and the music was the same but it was obvious that Rotton and the band were not. They were trying to uphold an image through their musicm but at their age succeeded to bitterly keep it alive. But can you blame them with all the pop punk culture that is taking over the world and the "glamed up" publicized versions of what the punk image is in mainstream culture? Historically punk was against all that. And can we ever really know what it's like to be a Sex Pistol? Probably not. But their legend lives on and if you understand what punk really is and then see them live then you will appreciate their fury.
Writer: Allisa Scott