The ‘Supergroup’ of the day, and an act that many attending were clearly looking forward to, were Generation Sex. There is always a question when this type of act, formed from two other iconic bands, will or will not work. In these circumstances, from the moment that Messrs Idol, James, Jones and Cook hit the stage, they could do no wrong.
Generation Sex – Blondie – Iggy Pop
Dog Day Afternoon – Crystal Palace – 1 July 2023
Words: Adrian Stonley
Photography: Aggie Anthimidou
With no material written as a band yet, this was a slice of wholehearted nostalgia, turning the clocks back to the late ’70s and the height of the angst-driven, kicking against the pricks, screw the Government and society era. In many ways, these acts summed up the frustration that the youth of the time was feeling, pouring out the vitriol with a series of all-encompassing attitude-driven punk rock songs.
Quite simply, this was an exercise in pure hedonistic pleasure. From the opening chords of Pretty Vacant with Idol back to his lip-curling sneering self, prowling the stage as though a teenager again, they could do no wrong.
Every word was sung along to, every song manically pogoed and danced to. If there were a set that may make the older members of the audience feel their age the next morning, then this was it. But there was no way anyone was going to stop them rolling back the years.
Anthem after anthem followed, a ‘what’s what’ of pure punk perfection. With a set selection split equally between Generation X and Sex Pistols material, this was a festival masterclass. With Pistols guitarist Jones wrenching out the adrenaline-fuelled favourites, driven by Tony James on bass and Paul Cook on drums, and Idol back in his element, it was clear that the band were experiencing the same elation as the crowd.
Ready Steady Go, Wild Youth, Dancing With Myself and King Rocker had the Gen X fans bouncing, whilst the Pistols fans were immersing themselves in Bodies, Black Leather and Silly Thing.
With Idol grinning at the audience, “You might know this one,” and the familiar chords of God Save The Queen tore out, there was no holding back.
With the familiar Pistols version of the old Sinatra crooner cover My Way finishing the set, everyone was yelling out the lyrics. The slow, soft start, until 1,2,3,4 and Steve Jone’s guitar tore through the pleasantries, and the band and audience were united as one.
It is fair to say Generation Sex certainly did things their way, and there was no other ‘Way’ to do it. Quite simply, how do you follow that?
Well, someone has to, and if there is one band who is not going to be blown off stage but take the euphoria on show and turn it up another level to 11, then there is no one quite like Blondie. Theirs was a set of pure punk-pop, providing crowd pleaser after crowd pleaser.
This was an exercise in pure unadulterated pleasure. Debbie Harry, the birthday girl, was on fire, and every song was met with (forgive the pun) rapture. From the opening chords of One Way Or Another, this was a band who, again, could do no wrong. Hit after hit followed.
It’s rather scary to realise how long ago many of these tunes were written, but each was received with the overriding positive reaction that pure pop perfection should. The set list was clearly a nod to the hits which the audience was expecting.
Like Gen Sex before them, everyone was singing along. It’s fair to say there were probably a few sore throats on Sunday morning, along with a few thick heads, no doubt. Hanging On The Telephone, Sunday Girl (Perhaps it should have been sung as birthday girl as the crowd were intent on ensuring that Debbie had the appropriate birthday welcome), Call Me, Atomic, The Tide Is High, with its reggae influence getting everyone dancing, through to Maria, Heart Of Glass, complete with outfit change, and X Offender, the list quite simply could go on and on.
Yet, Blondie also did not play it safe and mixed up the set with a smattering of lesser-known album tracks such as Will Anything Happen? from Parallel Lines, Long Time from their last album, Pollinator and Detroit 442 from Plastic Letters, a song dedicated to the night’s headliner Iggy Pop.
Yet like Gen Sex before them, they knew how to finish a night on the right note, and they held back a storming and energised Dreaming to see them on their way. Debbie is a phenomenal performer, and very few artists could carry off a vibrant, upbeat and enthralling set at her age. What age?…it doesn’t show even on her birthday. Go Google it. It isn’t polite to ask a lady.
I can’t remember a festival where set after set has flown by so quickly. From the 1.30 start until the end of Blondie’s set, the hours just flew, and before we knew it, the stage was set for the Godfather of Punk to arrive.
What is there to be said about Iggy Pop that has not already been said or written? The man is an absolute legend, and yet it seems that this was not entirely the consensus tonight. He hit the stage with the usual abandon. Stripping to the waist, he threw himself into his performance in his own inimitable way. The man is a full-force tornado. He dominates the stage, whirling like a dervish. He is the Real Wild Child.
The band were as tight as he was loose. The brass section expanded his traditional garage rock sound. Taking the punk ethic of the day, this was a set drawn more from his early Stooges days than from his solo material.
His was a dynamic performance. Despite the phenomenal sets gone before earlier in the day, Iggy was drawing on all his years of experience to provide a masterclass in escapism, bravado, and performance of pure shock and awe-stripped-back rock ‘n’ roll. There was simply no holding the man back. From songs such as TV Eye, Raw Power and Gimme Danger, he gave the audience what they wanted.
His audience interaction was to the point, but the music did the talking whilst he put his body through every contortion known to mankind. He is like a rubber ball using the music to stress test his body. There was no stopping him with one song after another tearing through the speakers, the band spraying out licks and riffs like a machine gun.
Halfway through the set, he slows things down with The Passenger, which unsurprisingly saw the audience in full singalong mode. Not doing things by halves, he then rips into Lust For Life, hurling himself around the stage, once again his energies bursting out as the crowd bayed for more.
There was little he could seem to do wrong in this performance, and yet at that point, it became very noticeable that a large part of the audience decided they had seen enough and started to depart. In fact, the flow of departees seemed to signal an exodus.
Even with more Stooges hits firing him up, Death Trip, I Wanna Be Your Dog, introduced by him barking on stage, and with Search And Destroy bringing the main set to a close, it was an hour of pure joyous rock ‘n’ roll perfection.
Perhaps closing the main set early was a further signal for the departing masses. Yet after a couple of minutes breather, [is that all the man needs after such exertion] he was back with a five-song encore. Perhaps throwing all the hits and favourites into the main set was enough for many. They had seen and heard what they came for, and after a long day they were off home.
In some ways, this was almost a disappointing end to the day. Certainly, the encores did not quite live up to the main set, and much as we hoped we would get Real Wild Child (Wild One) to see us off into the night, this was not forthcoming.
And yet, for those who remained to the end it was a perfect end to a perfect day. Six bands, six storming sets. A day of nostalgia, of fun and good humour. All bands met the mark. All killer and no filler.
Let’s hope that this is not a one-off and can become a regular feature on the festival circuit. After today’s performances, it needs to be.
The earlier performances of Lambrini Girls, Buzzcocks and Stiff Little Fingers is covered here.