Having long expressed a desire to work together, schedules finally aligned at the end of 2018 that allowed Generation X’s Billy Idol & Tony James to team up with Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones & Paul Cook. Generation Sex was born but only for a short period with the only dates taking place the other side of the pond. Fast forward to 2023 and the opportunity to work together again has seen some more fruitful outings with summer festival appearances across Europe and some indoor UK headline shows which brings us to the newly re-opened Civic Hall in Wolverhampton.
Unless you’d joined the queue well in advance of the doors opening it’s likely that you wouldn’t have caught much, if any, of the opening set from young punk upstarts Grade 2. Luckily we were in time to see Bob Vylan. The London duo make themselves difficult to categorise mixing up elements of rap, punk and rock, but it’s refreshing to see younger musicians who are carving out their own niche at the start of the journey rather than filling the support slot with another heritage act. With lyrics and songs clearly based around their own experiences and the world affecting them (racism, inequality and violence) it’s hardly a stretch to draw parallels with the same fury of the Pistols in ’77. The aural assault is embellished with industrial guitar and bass riffs, presumably triggered by the drummer, with the likes of ‘I Heard You Want Your Country Back’ and ‘Chat Shit, Get Bat’ going down well with some of the growing crowd.
Generation Sex take the stage in an unhurried fashion but to rapturous applause. Steve Jones picking out the opening notes to ‘Pretty Vacant’ serves as the cue for a fair proportion of the crowd to redistribute their drinks around the venue as they move en masse to the punk classic. ‘Vacant’ rolls in to ‘Ready Steady Go’ and Idol assures us that now they have a few gigs under their belt that we’re in for a good night. Unlike the festivals, the stage set up is quite simple. There’s no video screens or fancy gimmicks, just a simple backdrop and some choice lighting and dry ice. It’s all the better for it as there’s only the band and music to focus on and lends an element of intimacy to the 3500 capacity venue. By the time we get to ‘Bodies’ the band have really hit their stride; Paul Cook’s drums are tight and precise, not missing a beat all night and Jones’ guitar tone really cuts through mix. What could easily have been just a novelty show has become something vital and it feels like we are witnessing something very special indeed.
Idol snarls his way through a lengthy and menacing ‘Black Leather’ and the whole of the stalls are bouncing up and down and by this time we’ve started to see some crowd surfers. ‘Kiss Me Deadly’ and ‘Dancing With Myself’ up the game further still and the band seem to feed off the energy of the crowd as they tear through a magnificent ‘Silly Thing’ at breakneck pace. No one should really need reminding what a superb frontman Billy Idol is, but quite simply this combination just works. ‘King Rocker’ powers along with Tony James gliding around the stage behind his sunglasses making it look so effortless.
A glorious ‘God Save The Queen’ gives the crowd a further cardio workout which only lets up briefly when we get to the intro ‘My Way’ before the song erupts with Jones’ power chords. A three song encore begins with a raucous ‘Problems’ and ends with a huge sing-a-long to ‘The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’. If these few headline dates are testing the water, then it should show that there’s plenty of appetite for more shows should they choose to do so. If not, then this gig will remain one of those for the memory banks for years to come.
Ready Steady Go
Kiss Me Deadly
Dancing With Myself
God Save the Queen
(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone
The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle