One often wonders how so-called supergroups come about. Generation Sex, this evening’s collaboration, maybe more organic than others, as the protagonists originated from the same city and formed the nuclei of two trailblazing groups at the vanguard of the then emerging Punk Scene.
Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – 10 July 2023
Words: Sophie James
Photography: John Inglis
Collating the cream from both their back catalogues, supplementing them with decades more playing experience together with modern production technology and standards, the prospect was indeed quite mouth-watering. So, a Monday Night saw a hugely expectant, almost capacity, crowd populate the recently refurbished and upgraded Civic.
Fresh from an appearance at Dog Day Afternoon, Generation Sex sauntered onto the stage, the relaxed approach was evident even before the first note sounded. “Good evening Wolverhampton, it’s nice to be here,” and “We’ve got a few gigs under our belts now.” And very soon after, the distinctive chords of Pretty Vacant rang out.
All the elements that characterised their entire performance were there from the offset. Billy was in a most laidback jovial mood and, more crucially, with a fine voice. Steve was riffing like the master of the art that he indisputably is. Tony was providing the sort of low end that was sadly missing from the post-Matlock era, while Cookie played with the industry of a bunny that has just been fitted with some brand new Duracells.
The adrenalised rockabilly of Ready Steady Go was followed by Wild Youth. Whether it was my proximity to the PA, this resembled a synthesis of AC/DC and Status Quo, with Steve’s gritty Les Paul providing the clout.
“Thanks for showing up. We really appreciate it. And on a Monday night as well,” quipped Steve
“She was a girl from Birm-ing-ham” was always going to get a sizeable proportion of this crowd howling along, as well as the first mass outburst of pogoing from all the old punks.
“We didn’t have much of a chance to play this back in the day.” Generation X’s Untouchables came across as a weightier version of the kind of song that was all over US FM Radio in the ’80s. Hardly surprising then that the frontman gazed westwards to further his career.
Black Leather, with its gritty, weighty riff and Tony’s propulsive metronomic bass, provided the heaviest moments of the set so far. Tune in, drop out and lose yourself in that rhythm.
If ever a piece was extended to demonstrate a guitar player’s skills, then this was it with plentiful use made of the old Wah Wah. Upon its conclusion, “I want you to know when I play lead, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing,” joked Stevo.
“A slight change of pace. This is about negotiating the streets of London’s nightlife back in 1977 when you took your life in your hands. You would run the gauntlet of skinheads and teddy boys especially, who didn’t like what you were wearing.”
With that introduction compounded by the line “Having fun in SW6”, one could just imagine the risks and the rucks that occurred during the venomous social period that Kiss Me Deadly portrayed.
“As fast as you like, Paul Cook.” Dancing With Myself was utterly exuberant, and from the balcony, it was delightful to see the whole floor so buoyant. The riff sounded like it was forever destined to be played by Steve Jones, who even managed to throw in some classic RnR riffs, such as C’mon Everybody, into the mix. And to paraphrase the infamous Bricktop, “He’s a busy little baarstard that Cookie”.
40 Minutes or so into the set, Billy was officially warmed up as he finally dispensed with his jacket. Silly Thing was followed by the mass crowd surfing-inducing King Rocker.
God Save The Queen, and we were at MoshCon 1. The massed voices of the Wolverhampton Male and Female Voice Choir bellowed out the dystopic “NOOOO FUUUTURRRE,” while across the stage, was that really a pair of panties hurled at Stevo?
The pace never eased as we hurtled down the home straight with Your Generation. “You sexy baarstarrds,” exclaimed Steve. “Are you all having fun? We are. Sing along with this one.”
Cue mass chants of “Stevo! Stevo!”
“Oh, stop it. You’re only putting me off.”
Before the gig, my only mild apprehension was if My Way was played, how would Billy interpret and deliver it? We were about to find out.
Commencing pedestrianly, it soon ignited and kindled the spirit that one expects at the very best Christmas parties. The sense of enjoyment, both in the band and all around the auditorium, was there for all to see.
Quite a staggering way to conclude the main set.
“We’ve got loads more,” they said as they returned to the stage. Well, three, actually, commencing with another instantly recognisable Pistols riff in Problems. Let us not forget that the Pistols had pure rock ‘n’ roll infused in their DNA, covering not one but two songs by Eddie Cochran. Neither of these were aired. However, the Liverpool Five’s (I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone was, it being a glorious demonstration of how to ‘Punk Up’ or even metallise a classic rock ‘n’ roll riff.
“Can anyone guess our last song? It’s a weird one but a good one.” There followed a few minutes of good-humoured nonsense as Stevo led the all too obliging crowd in a brief chorus of Billy Don’t Be a Hero.
The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle lost none of its potency. No doubt Malcolm is looking down (or up) with one eye definitely on all the filthy lucre being coined in.
Savouring the moments as they stretched out their final bows, it was apparent throughout just how much Billy, Steve, Tony and Paul were revelling in the whole event. To hear both band’s legacies being resurrected with a zeal some may consider surprising for guys their age, it left one with an indescribably warm glow and a beaming smile.
The sound was just so full, gritty and punchy, giving all the material an impetus and impact that one never realised was missing from the original well-known and well-loved versions.
I will leave the final word to a young gentleman called Pete, who I bumped into outside after the show.
“That was Punk History being made right there”. And who could argue?
Vocals – Billy Idol
Guitar – Steve Jones
Bass – Tony James
Drums – Paul Cook
- Pretty Vacant (Sex Pistols)
- Ready Steady Go (Generation X)
- Wild Youth (Generation X)
- Bodies (Sex Pistols)
- Untouchables (Generation X)
- Black Leather (Sex Pistols)
- Kiss Me Deadly (Generation X)
- Dancing With Myself (Generation X)
- Silly Thing (Sex Pistols)
- King Rocker (Generation X)
- God Save the Queen (Sex Pistols)
- Your Generation (Generation X)
- My Way (Claude François)
- Problems (Sex Pistols)
- (I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone (Liverpool Five)
- The Great Rock’ n’ Roll Swindle (Sex Pistols)