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Rhino presents
Sex Pistols: There'll Always Be An England (2007)

"I look around your house and you got nothing to steal
I kick you in the brains when you get down to kneel
And pray you pray to your god!"

- lyrics to No Feelings

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: November 17, 2008

Stars: John Lydon. Steve Jones, Paul Cook, Glen Matlock
Director: Julien Temple

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 01h:10m:30s
Release Date: September 04, 2008
UPC: 603497978465
Genre: music


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AB+A- B

DVD Review

Call me nuts if you must, but the Sex Pistols' 1977 release Never Mind The Bollocks is without question one of the finest rock-and-roll records ever made.

It's angry, comical, subversive, intelligent, and just so enjoyably exciting on a myriad of discordant levels that I get goosebumpy just thinking about it. The band itself burned white hot and disintegrated quickly as we all knew they must—and even notched an iconic dead rock star out of the deal in the form of chain-swinging thug bassist Sid Vicious—but those few songs have remained, and decades on stills hold true as one of the great turning points in modern music.

And contrary to the now brittle tenants of punk, a reunion of guys on the dark side of 50 just seems wrong, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't somewhat apprehensive about this 2007 concert performance, shot as part of their 5-night stand at The Brixton Academy. Featuring the full original lineup of vocalist John (Rotten) Lydon, guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook, and bassist Glen Matlock, There'll Always Be An England doles out all of that familiar vintage energy in mad bursts to a packed, sweaty, eager-to-sing-a-long crowd that runs the gamut from young mohawked kids whose parents might not even have been around in the mid-70s, to folks topping 50 themselves, and everything in-between. And judging by the frequent crowd shots, there wasn't one person who didn't know every word to every song performed.

Director Julien Temple (Earth Girls Are Easy, Aria) has become the de facto Pistols archiver, having helmed both The Filth and The Fury and The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle; here his familiarity with the material seems to be a natural fit, and his long-standing relationship with the band going back to the early days made him the logical choice to capture what up until now is the only full-length performance of the original Pistols.

Even utilizing what seems like a million different cameras, Temple sidesteps the typical nausea-inducing MTV quick cuts in favor of edits that actually feel in synch with the music. Temple turns the pogoing, fist-pumping crowd into an integral part of the show as well, and being able to actually hear their voices shouting along just under the mix gives this a live texture that almost made me feel like I was there.

The spiky-haired 51-year-old Lydon—who at one point proudly displays his protruding beer belly like some kind of national treasure—does what I considered the unthinkable and is still able to spew out those lyrics with the same kind of once shocking venom and disdain. While never a finesse vocalist, Lydon's strength is his whiny growl, and over the years since the demise of the Pistols he has done some remarkably mature work as part of PIL, but here it's back to street level. Sure, he's an older dude now, but the anger (manufactured or not) is there, and Lydon's vocals once again drip with that nostalgic vitriol that cemented him as one of rock's most magnetic front men. It's Lydon's theatrical show to lead, leaving Jones free to unfurl fuzzy power riff after fuzzy power riff, while Matlock and Cook apply the backbone to it all. I'm still in awe at just how collectively tight these guys remain after all these years.

Even as a fan, I fully expected this to be a money-grab trainwreck. Man, was I ever mistaken. The only thing that would have made this better would have been if Sid Vicious was resurrected from the dead to stagger out and sing My Way.

Set List:

Pretty Vacant
Seventeen
No Feelings
New York
Did You Wrong
Liar
Besides The Seaside
Holiday In The Sun
Submission
(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone
No Fun
Problems
God Save The Queen
EMI
Bodies
Anarchy In The UK
Roadrunner


Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The concert is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Deep down it seems wrong to praise the sharpness of the image for this Pistols concert, because it just seems by nature it should be fuzzy, dirty, and beer-soaked. Fleshtones are spot on—even under the vagaries of stage lighting—and the crowd fares nearly as well as the band, and they're used nearly as much. A few purposely grainy longshots from the back of the venue are clearly more for style than anything else, and are a contrast to the consistently clean appearance.

Very nice.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio choices are provided in 2.0 stereo or 5.1 surround. Take the stereo only if you must, because the deep 5.1 track is where the fun is, as the buzzsaw riffs of Steve Jones have a remarkable sort of live clarity throughout. Lydon's vocals—with all of the expected age-related rough patches—are just as clean, but it is really the collective sing-a-along voice of the crowd that elevates this mix into "you are there" territory.

Play it extremely loud. I did.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 17 cues and remote access
31 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The menu system doesn't allow individual song selection until after the concert is viewed, at which point any of the 17 tunes can individually selected—including the curious post-credit non-Pistol-ish cover of Roadrunner.

Supplements are piled up under The Knowledge section, and over the course of more than 30 short segments (averaging a minute or two) various combos of Lydon, Jones, Cook, and Matlock provide a travelogue of band-related historical markers around England. The bits are selectable either via a map or by band member. Want to see the last place Sid Vicious shared a pint with the rest of the band? It's here, along with an assortment of homes, tube stations, and neighborhoods where the Pistols formed, as well as a brief glimpse at a soundcheck performance. Lydon—ever the grand host—provides ten bus tour moments, in which he conducts a naturally coarse highlight of key locales.

The disc is cut into 19 chapters, with no subtitle options.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Yes, I know they're older, plumper, and bastardizing the punk movement principles they helped define by reuniting (again) simply for a big cash grab. But damn if this isn't one of the most relentlessly aggressive sets of balls-out rock I've seen in quite some time, let alone from guys seemingly past their expiration dates. Pistols familiar Julien Temple catches every conceivable camera angle.

Don't you dare mock the Pistols. Don't you dare.

Highly recommended.

 


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