Sex Pistols/Dropkick Murphys/Reverend Horton Heat - live in Toronto (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Sex Pistols / Dropkick Murphys / Reverend Horton Heat

live in Toronto (2003)

live show

First of all, I quite liked the promotion (or lack thereof) for this tour. The word "reunion" was not used and the band had no new release to support. A bewildering ticket price at some US venues aside, this was pretty much a tour that those who cared to see the band. The lack of hype (and I'm not saying it deserved much) kept people's expectations realistic.

The Reverend Horton Heat opened to the slowly filling theatre. They had drawn a faithful but small crowd of greasers who pumped their firsts along to the sped up rockabilly riffs. I liked their set but they suffered from having to play an amphitheatre stage to a sparse crowd. To their credit they made the best of it and never let their energy wane.

The Dropkick Murphys followed, and from my vantage point they played a great set. They had attracted a fair number of their own fans to the show so the crowd was as energetic as one could hope for the venue. They opened with "For Boston" and played a fair number of tracks from Blackout. Songs like "Walk Away," "Fields Of Athenry" and "Worker's Song" all sounded great. The highlight for me was when they brought out Stephanie Dougherty for "The Dirty Glass." The duet was quite fun live, as was the cover she joined the band for (of Johnny Cash's "If I Was A Carpenter," I've been told).

It seemed somewhat unreal as John Lydon stalked onto stage and the Sex Pistols burst into "Bodies." For someone nearing 50, he was as animated and confrontational as one would expect. After faithfully (and somewhat harder then on Bollocks) banging out "No Feelings" and "God Save The Queen," Johnny got into a bit of a fight.

There were one or two people in the front row who had consistently showered Lydon with spit for the first three songs. Why a few crustys felt the need to revive the idiotic "gobbing" trend I'll never know. I take it that the gobbing here had nothing to do with the band's performance, as it started as soon as the band took stage. Lydon quite rightly pointed out how it was an incredibly fake thing for the "punks" to do.

Not content with being covered with the contents of someone else's mouth, Lydon stopped the band in the first 10 seconds of a song and exploded into a tirade of insults. He brought the crowd's attention to the "fuckin' lumberjack" in the front row who was fountaining spit. When nothing he could say stopped it, Lydon stormed to the back of the stage, grabbed his bottle of brandy, barked out a few insults and was gone.

In the five or six minutes that followed the crowd became increasingly unruly in the darkened amphitheatre, hurling a few of the folded chairs at the stage. A number of the venue's staff nervously milled about the front of the stage in an attempt to salvage the concert and calm the crowd. I'm not sure if they removed the spitter or if he simply gave up, but five or six minutes later the band returned (to resounding applause) and burst into a cover of The Stooges' "No Fun."

The gobbing never started back up and Rotten was completely charged for the rest of the evening. Whether the walk-off was genuine or an act, the vibe for the remainder of the show was amazing. There was an air of uncertainty, as no one really knew how much longer the band would play or what Lydon would do or say. He soon called for the fans in the cheaper seats to "Come down 'ere and say hello to the wealthy." Those that could get around the security poured into the pit (that appeared where there were once chairs). The band sloppily ran through "Holidays In The Sun" and got a lots of crowd participation for "Pretty Vacant" and anti-record-industry anthem "EMI." The band encored with "Anarchy In The U.K" and "Problems."


I love how eventful and genuinely unpredictable the set had become and I came away immensely entertained.

Now, on a purely musical level, the Pistols weren't too impressive, but what would you expect? In the two years that they existed the Sex Pistols were fucked up, manipulated, and rife with in-fighting. THAT was the band I wanted to see, and that's pretty much what I got. The last thing I wanted was to see the Sex Pistols play a refined and polished set of songs. They were never a band that had a chance to gel or tour extensively, so I don't hold them up to the standards I use to judge careerist bands. If the Sex Pistols were to take the stage and play like Pearl Jam, I would have been sorely disappointed.

My mindset here was less "the Pistols better play well" and more "this show better be entertaining." Purely on those terms, I walked away happy.