As we age, face the harsh realities of life, lose loved ones, and perhaps start to contemplate our own mortality, we have choices. We can succumb to the darkness of reactionary impulses, which have built up over the years or not.
I leave an evening with John Lydon early with mixed feelings and knowing we have parted ways. Seeking to unpick Lydon today is not a joyful experience. He has long stopped being the once charismatic leader of two charismatic bands that helped shape my personal musical journey.
Lydon’s abandonment of his class politics, which I know winds a few people up, has little importance to me. However, through his physical gesturing, his mocking of Diane Abbot, the U.K. first black female MP, says far more about his current state of thinking than any words leaving his mouth. It’s mocking straight out of the Trump playbook. It’s not funny and simply gives the impression (rightfully or wrongly) of spitefulness. I do feel a sense of unease.
Lydon’s attempts at personality assassinations are predictable, often crude and dull. Refections of his time with the Pistols are old news, regurgitated stories many would have heard countless times before. His contempt for fellow Pistol’s, especially drummer Paul Cook, are delivered like an unconvincing victim who has woken to the news that nobody really cares 40 years later.
Repeating the word cunt. I genuinely believe Lydon is the last person in the room to understand it’s all wearing thin, but he keeps repeating it, time and time again. It’s silly, tedious even. Recollections of butter adverts he made over a decade ago are told as if recent glories.
By far, the best parts of the evening are when he reflects on those he holds close. His parents, brothers and wife Nora. There is a sense of genuine reflection and encouragement for those dealing with loss or faced with the prospect of losing a loved one through the horrors of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Reflections of growing up in working-class neighbourhoods ring hollow now. There is little conviction behind the words. Just an analogue image of dusty memories, fading and recast into the light through a chipped lens of fake nostalgia and patriotism.
Lydon will always have his core fanbase. Tonight it’s an overwhelmingly white, 50+-year-old, male audience. Nothing wrong with this, of course, though one can hardly ignore the reality, like a ripple in a pond, it’s a case of ever-decreasing circles.
In truth, I’m bored; he starts to end the night by instigating an Abba singalong in memory to Sid Vicious. I’m out of here. The pantomime is over.