For those only aware of Glen Matlock’s involvement in The Sex Pistols, Friday night at The Linda was a crash course in the rest of the songwriter’s career.
The affable founding bassist of Britain’s most famous punk band tore through his back catalog before a crowd filling maybe half the venue, putting his songwriting skills on full display for an hour-plus acoustic set.
Early on, Matlock stated he was going to treat the show like a wedding, playing “something old, something new, something borrowed and something bluesy,” and that he did, sandwiching most of his 2010 album with his latest band, the Philistines, “Born Running,” in between songs from his band after The Sex Pistols, The Rich Kids, a few covers and of course, a few Pistols classics for good measure.
He started off with the new, including “Somewhere, Somehow” from “Born Running” and “Different World,” both of which set the relaxed-yet-energetic tone that the rest of the evening would follow. The Rich Kids’ “Burning Sounds” was an early highlight, with Matlock explaining that the song was one of the first he wrote after leaving The Pistols in 1977.
Speaking of that group, Matlock couldn’t leave the audience hanging for too long, throwing a bone with “God Save the Queen,” which he began by having the audience clap out a simple rockabilly beat. His gruff voice, less nasally and caustic than Pistols belter Johnny Rotten, helped bring out the song’s buried melodicism and anthemic qualities.
Matlock’s muscular playing and singing throughout the evening made up for the lack of a band on these songs — acoustic singer-songwriter showcase this most certainly was not. His “bluesy” number came with “Ambition,” a song originally recorded during his stint with Iggy Pop in the 1970s.
“He didn’t do a very good job of it,” Matlock proclaimed, before recasting the song as a shuffle. The “borrowed” portion included a snarling version of “Dead End Street” — by Matlock’s heroes, The Kinks — which received some of the biggest applause of the evening.
Other highlights included audience shout-alongs “Yeah, Right!” and “Hard Work,” with Matlock creating a call and response on the songs’ choruses. The poignant drug addiction paean “On Something” offered perhaps the most alarmingly candid moment of the evening late in the set, only to be bested by “Born Running” and main set closer “Pretty Vacant,” one of the first songs Matlock wrote for The Pistols.
New York Dolls founding guitarist Sylvain Sylvain played it sloppy and loose for his opening set, keeping the crowd entertained just as much with his humorous asides and false stops and starts as with the tunes he played. Of course, this was in keeping with the Dolls’ fast and sloppy style, and the minor hiccups and raunchy jokes that interrupted nearly every song only enhanced the performance.
Sylvain tore through songs from throughout his career, leaving room for pointed covers from Bo Diddley (”Pills”) and Velvet Underground (”Femme Fatale,” which featured Sylvain playing his acoustic through a wah-wah pedal). Best of all was the Dolls classic “Trash,” which was teased early in the show and played in all its glory to close out the set, once again inspiring a full-throated sing-along.
Sylvain later joined Matlock for a raucous encore that seemed to be made up on the spot, much to the audience’s rowdy excitement.