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REVIEWS San Diego '03

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San Diego, Street Scene: 7th September 2003

Review by Mike Gaffrey

I waited 25 years for what I witnessed last night. In 1978 I missed the Pistols; I was only 13 years old and of course had no way of getting from San Diego to San Francisco to see the Winterland show. In 1996 I missed them again; my wife had just delivered our first child and I had fatherly duties that kept me at home. Last night I had nothing to hold me back from finally seeing the Sex Pistols perform live at San Diego Street Scene. I have always avoided Street Scene cuz frankly I don't like huge festival crowds and in the past there have not really been any bands performing there that I would give two shits to see. But yesterday I made the decision that I would be front and center for the Pistols and get the most possible out of what may be my only real chance to see them.

My buddy Colin and I got to the festival and wandered around a bit, listened to some nice reggae from Eek A Mouse, had a few beers, and chuckled about all the teenage kids running around in store-bought "punk" attire with their little Mohawks standing so proud. An hour or so before the Pistols were due to start, we began working our way through the crowd while Bad Religion were just finishing up their set. Right when they left the stage we made our way to the front barrier and took up our position. The crowd around us were great; people with a few years under their belts who were there to soak up the Pistols and really experience the show, while all of the little MTV-generation "punks" were back behind us waiting to get a pit going.

At around 8 PM Steve walked out on stage to thunderous noise from the crowd, followed by Paul and Glen. John waited a few more seconds to let the tension build, then came out with a laugh at the crowd and the announcement that "all posers can go home! The real deal is in the house!". Bodies was incredible and the band sounded great, but I never actually heard John's voice cuz the crowd knew all the words and were screaming them at full volume. Next was Seventeen. John forgot the lyrics to the second verse and had a laugh at his own expense. New York was third, but from then on I can't recall the song order. They of course did everything off Bollocks, plus Belsen and No Fun. Sadly they dropped Did You No Wrong from this set. John seemed a little annoyed during No Fun cuz it was so obvious that the vast majority of the crowd had never even heard the fucking song before. During the breaks between songs people were yelling all kinds of shit at the band, from song requests to calling John a "cunt". Steve came towards the edge of the stage during one of the intervals and I yelled out "The Professionals!!!" Steve smiled and laughed at that and gave me a nod.

All through the show we had crowd surfers getting tossed up towards the front and I spent a good part of the show helping throw these fuckers over the barrier so the bouncers could get rid of them. It got real fucking old real fucking fast. I'm sure that to most of these kids this was just another band at just another show so why pay attention? I just don't get it; but then again I'm 38, not 16. So over the barrier they went: boys and girls, most losing a shoe at the least, a wallet at the most. But in between the sweaty bodies being passed overhead, I witnessed an incredible show. In between songs John had a lot to say, but none of it was too serious. I really dug watching Steve, Paul and Glen and it kinda tripped me out that right there in front of me was the original lineup, the best lineup, the guys who started the whole fucking thing. It was a little weird watching John simply because after all the old film footage I have seen from the old days, he is a completely different performer now than he was then. I knew better than to expect him to be hunched over a mic stand with that stare going, but his confidence these days has him bouncing all over the stage doing silly dances and making even sillier faces.

When they left the stage for a "cup of tea", the crowd made a bit of noise and the band came back on, minus John. He stood off to the side and asked "Do you really want me back?" The crowd cheered, then out he stepped and said "I don't give a fuck what you want. It's these boys I'm asking (pointing to Steve, Paul and Glen)." He asks Steve "Do you really want me back?" and Steve has this big grin on his face and starts nodding his head like an overly excited little kid. John laughs and bounces over to Steve and plants a big kiss on his cheek. The crowd went nuts, then John said "So what's all this shit that we don't like each other? Well, we don't!" This little exchange really did show that after all these years, and after all the public ranting that John has done, he really does love the others and they feel the same way about him. It was something nice to see.

They launched into Anarchy, and in the middle of the song I made eye contact with Steve and gestured to him that I wanted his guitar pick. I thought he caught my meaning but couldn't be sure. Then came Problems, then it was suddenly over. The band said their thanks to the crowd and started leaving the stage, when suddenly Steve turned around, and motioned for me to hang on…He grabbed a guitar pick off his amp, winked at me, and passed it down to a bouncer who passed it to me. What a fucking rush!

So after 25 years of waiting, I finally had my ultimate Pistols experience: Front row center for a great show…And the Guitar Hero's guitar pick as a souvenir. I don't feel cheated at all.

©2003 Phil Singleton / www.sex-pistols.net
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