Words provided by guest Reviewer : Ed Hewens
Photography provided by Naomi Dryden-Smith
Saturday 1st of July 2023
There are quite a few dogs having their days today: onstage Stiff Little Fingers and front man Jake Burns are in fine form, despite the passage of time and inevitable expansion of waistlines. Buzzcocks have far more serious issues to overcome, since the untimely passing of Pete Shelley. Instead it is Steve Diggle who steps up as frontman to lead the first real sing along of the afternoon.
Understandably, there is something of a festival atmosphere amongst the crowd, who span not just the generations, but the genres and cults: goths, punks and even the occasional mod are here (mostly) enjoying the south London sun with warm lager and smuggled wine bladders. Let’s hope they sensibly lined their stomachs at the cornucopia of world food on offer at the back of the somewhat makeshift arena in the grounds of where Victorian Britain displayed all the stuff that it thought made it Great.
Because – and speaking of generations – here’s Generation X: 50% Sex Pistols, 50% Generation X, they have a slightly schizophrenic catalogue(s) to plunder. Perhaps they’re a little under rehearsed, perhaps they’re just getting on a bit, some of it doesn’t entirely land on the spot, but they do provide a few moment so visceral punk energy (Bodies), spiky rockerbilly fun (King Rocker), rollocking sing along (God Save the Queen, Pretty Vacant) and even the occasional departure towards, well, pop with Dancing with Myself seeing Billy Idol find his voice. They end with a surprisingly emotional My Way (but maybe that was just my hangover).
Next up we have Blondie: once again, we’re not really sure what to expect here, given that the passage of time (it’s Debbie’s 78th Birthday!) and a line up that has Clem Burke as the only other original band member. But, have no fear punk purists! Look who’s on bass duties: it’s a further 25% of the Sex Pistols, Glen Matlock. Blondie are in fine form today, every song a hit and Debbie looks and sounds great, certainly as if she’s enjoying what she does. The band are drilled, know each other and the songs well. The setlist could be a Greatest Hits album: opener One way or Another sets the tone, Hanging on the Telephone is discarded startlingly early in a set that shimmers and sparkles like Debbie herself.
How do you follow that? Well, Iggy Pop knows how. He’s been in business longer than any of them. The stories are true. And he’s got the scars to prove it. And he’s not afraid to sho them to us. He limps on, dragging one foot behind him; he has literally twisted himself out of shape over a lifetime of throwing himself around for our entertainment. Tonight’s set is loaded with Stooges’ material: T.V. Eye, Raw Power, Gimme Danger, I Wanna be your Dog amongst others, all of which are enthusiastically received by the crowd punctured by more than a smattering mowhawks (what is the correct collective? A gob?). There is a brief lull after Search and Destroy for us to gather ourselves. Not that Iggy needs a rest; he’s a mere 76. So he’s back on with the icy, synthy weirdness of Mass Production and Nightclubbing from The Idiot, strutting and pouting like Jagger’s weird, delinquent younger. He concludes with a new one: Frenzy from this years’ Every Loser. Just to remind us that he still can.
Fittingly, he’s the last to leave the stage. Shirtless, covered in gob, he limp/ struts from the stage. His point proven. He’s had his day again. And you wouldn’t bet on him having a few more to come. Here’s hoping anyway.