Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols) and Hugh Cornwell (ex-Stranglers) stopped in town last Friday for a show billed as "Heavyweight Rock and Roll," and each turned in a set of old punk favorites and newer material—with mixed results.
Matlock, the founding bass player of the Sex Pistols who was infamously sacked for his love of the Beatles and has now been "reinstated" for their We Need Some Money minitours, kicked the show off at the ungodly time of 9:15. Backing him up were all-fills and no-frills drummer Clem Burke, a founding member of Blondie; and bass player Fish, who once served time with James White and the Blacks. Burke and Fish are pulling double-duty; they are also Cornwell's backing band.
Playing the guitar and singing, Matlock started off with a few uninspired power-pop numbers from his latest release, Born Running, before plowing into the requisite Sex Pistols songs. Let's face it: This is what the crowd was here for, and when the opening riffs of "God Save the Queen" blasted through the amps, the audience multiplied tenfold. I couldn't help but think of Johnny Rotten's siren/warning calls of "no future," and wondering what was worse: bleak living standards on the horizon, or Glen Matlock playing this 35 years later in a Las Vegas-revue-style manner. Worse yet was the Pistols' "Pretty Vacant" as Matlock's closer, turning it into a "clap your hands and sing along, everybody" piece, complete with an inebriated woman spitting her drink at the band. Pretty vacant indeed.
Faring better was Cornwell, who, after departing the Stranglers, kept at it with a respectable solo career, churning out more-than-decent albums. Still, one can't listen to the older material without realizing how integral Dave Greenfield's keyboards were to the Stranglers' overall sound. The sublime "Golden Brown" is now a lumbering-bass-odyssey cocktail number without the elegant harpsichord, and gone are the sleazy squeaks and squeals of the perverse "Peaches," leaving Cornwell laying tired phased and flanged guitar effects over it. However, the newer material is perfect for a stripped-down three-piece, and Cornwell's voice is as strong and vaguely sinister as ever.
As for the heavyweight match between these two punk-rock legends, I'm gonna have to declare a TKO for Hugh Cornwell.