The joys of ageing rockers for an ageing crowd

Image shows a wide angle shot of an outdoor music stage with Blondie performing

Dog Day Afternoon, starring Billy Idol, Blondie, and Iggy Pop might not have been a riot, but it was bloody good fun

Crystal Palace Park is probably best-known for its dinosaur sculptures, but over the weekend, it came alive with the music of such legends as Blondie, Iggy Pop, and Billy Idol. It would be unkind to say these ageing rockers were the real dinosaurs. Instead, they all demonstrated, along with the Buzzcocks and Stiff Little Fingers, that sexagenarians and septuagenarians have plenty of business headlining festivals.

My husband and I impulse-bought tickets to Dog Day Afternoon, reasoning that we’d never forgive ourselves for missing this line-up when they were playing nine miles from our house. Iggy Pop was the main drawcard for my husband, while I have wanted to see Blondie since I first heard The Tide Is High on Countdown – the Australian equivalent of Top of the Pops – as a kid.

Kickstarting the day

We arrived in time for the opening act, Lambrini Girls, to mostly scream at us about trans rights and police brutality. I’m not sure anyone’s views on these contentious issues were swayed in either direction by the energetic performance of TERF Wars, and their set ended abruptly when the mics were cut.

That was a convenient time for the first loo break of the day. As per the lyrics of TERF Wars, gender neutral toilets were not the problem. Having all the bogs at one end of a rather large area, however, was not the greatest idea for an assembly of thousands of ageing bladders. It was probably just as well for all concerned that it was a long wait for a £6 can of Carlsberg at the bar. It was ice cream for dinner for us, washed down with an alarming brand of canned water called Liquid Death.

Buzzcocks and Stiff Little Fingers

Image shows shot from back of the stage out across the crowds with Buzzcocks playing at the front, facing away from the photographer and towards the crowd

Buzzcocks – Photo: Victor Frankowski

We settled down on a patch of grass for the Buzzcocks, with a 12-song set belted out amiably by frontman Steve Diggle, resplendent in a very M&S Blue Harbour-looking jumper. His attire was an intriguing juxtaposition against such tracks as Orgasm Addict and Why Can’t I Touch It?.

Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) was the one everyone was waiting for and it didn’t disappoint. Next up, Stiff Little Fingers were cheerful and melodic, with a detour into melancholic nostalgia with Doesn’t Make It Alright, a cover of The Specials’ song as an emotional tribute to Terry Hall.

My husband noted that the Buzzcocks and Stiff Little Fingers do a roaring trade as support acts, so it’s inevitable that we’ll all end up seeing them at some point in our lives. We ticked them both off our list within about two hours.

Generation Sex

Image shows single shot of performer Billy Idol singing

Billy Idol – Photo: Victor Frankowski

And speaking of lists, when Generation Sex came onstage, the bucket list came out earlier than expected. Comprising Billy Idol, his long-serving bassist, Tony James, and Steve Jones and Paul Cook of Sex Pistols fame, their renditions of God Save The Queen and I Did It My Way were almost worth the admission price alone.

Billy Idol was clearly having a great time up there. Although I felt more comfortable on his behalf when he ditched the leather jacket in the heat. Hell, I was starting to regret my sparkly synthetic leggings for hot flush-related reasons, rather than mutton-dressed-as-lamb fears.


Image shows long range shot of stage with band Blondie performing live

Blondie – Photo: Victor Frankowski

For me, the absolute highlight was Blondie. There were plenty of predictably terrible comments on Twitter about how Debbie Harry’s voice had gone at Glastonbury, along with the usual ageist bollocks about women of a certain age having the temerity to exist.

But Debbie celebrated her 78th birthday in fine style in Crystal Palace. Obviously, the upper register that could bring out all the dogs in a 10-mile radius wasn’t quite what it used to be, but nobody cared. One of the communal highlights of the set was the whole crowd joining in with the piercing “Ooh-oh-ooh-ah-oohs” of Heart of Glass.

My only disappointment was the absence of Denis, Denis from the set list – a gorgeous track that my husband and Alexa insist on calling “Dennis, Dennis”. But this was more than made up for by being in the live presence of The Tide Is High, One Way Or Another, Hanging On The Telephone, Call Me, Sunday Girl, Atomic, Rapture, Maria, Dreaming

It really was banger after banger. Singing along at the top of my lungs, along with passively smoking more weed in an afternoon than I did in my entire misspent 20s, contributed to this Sunday Girl waking up with a sore throat and a drag queen voice.

Read more: You don’t have to be over 50 to enjoy festivals but it helps

Iggy Pop

Image shows long range shot of Iggy Pop and band on stage

Iggy Pop – Photo: Victor Frankowski

The finale was Iggy Pop. By this point, my arthritic knees, ankles, two club feet and knackered lower back were starting to bite me. We found a spot on a little hill overlooking the whole spectacle that gave me plenty of room to sit down, as well as a good vantage point for my husband to enjoy the show without it being too peopley. The only problem was that I sat in front of a wall that doubled as a men’s toilet. I avoided looking behind myself to prevent seeing actual wee that could not be held in for the long walk to the portaloos.

When I worked on the Australian edition of FHM, I saw pictures of Iggy Pop’s penis frequently. On this occasion, he did not rock out with his cock out. But it would have been disappointing if he didn’t stride on stage and divest himself of his waistcoat in mere moments.

He was a shirtless spectacle, remnants of his muscular days lurking under scars, creases and sagging skin. He didn’t care and why should he? At 76, if he can bend and contort around the stage without missing a beat, he can wear as much or as little as he likes. Damn, if I can still get upstairs unaided at 76, I’ll be joyous.

Image shows Iggy Pop and band, photo taken from close to the front of the stage, and Iggy is shirtless, and singing

Iggy Pop – Photo: Victor Frankowski

And as for me…

As my beleaguered feet swelled up in my shoes in time to the music, I started to wonder if I should follow my own advice and start carrying a fold-up walking stick to such occasions. I’m Blue Badge-eligible. Maybe the time has come to avail myself of the disabled access areas.

No matter where you sat, Iggy Pop offered brilliant value for money with an 18-song set that featured five tracks in the encore alone. The more mobile members of the crowd bounced as the likes of Five Foot One, Raw Power, I Wanna Be Your Dog and Search and Destroy eloquently roared out.

Everyone sang along with gusto to Lust For Life – a song that must keep Iggy Pop in the best tight jeans on royalties alone – proving that while a large proportion of the audience, myself included, must have been in a world of joint pain on Sunday morning, we’re not dead yet. I just hope everyone was able to have a nice sit-down on the train ride home.

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About Georgia Lewis
In a career that has spanned Australia, the Middle East and the UK, Georgia has written about all sorts of things, including sex, cars, food, oil and gas, insurance, fashion, travel, workplace safety, health, religious affairs, glass and glazing... When she's not writing words for fun and profit, she can usually be found with a glass of something French and red in her hand.

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