Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” asked a weary Johnny Rotten at the conclusion of the Sex Pistols’ only U.S. tour. The show took place at the one-time hippie haven of the Winterland in San Francisco on Jan. 12, 1978, and would be the band’s final performance — at least until their 1996 reunion. By then, however, Sid Vicious was long dead.
The evening kicked off with sets by two of San Francisco’s finest of the era, the Avengers and the Nuns (which included future American star Alejandro Escovedo), before the Sex Pistols took the stage. “Welcome to London!,” spat Johnny Rotten as the group launched into a suitably visceral “God Save The Queen.”
Throughout the show, Rotten was in fine form, looking equally amused and angry while delivering the goods. “If you can put up with that, you can put up with anything,” he said at one point, with bit of self-defacing humor. Steve Jones and Paul Cook held their own, but Vicious floundered on bass. (It was, after all, his second instrument of choice, just behind the syringe.) Though not a total disaster, the Sex Pistols failed to live up to the buzz that preceded them. They were at death’s door when the tour started, and San Francisco was the final nail in the coffin.
During the sole encore of the evening, a very loose version of the Stooges classic “No Fun,” Rotten laid his feelings out, revamping the lyrics a bit. “This is no fun, no fun / This is no fun at all, no fun,” he sang, sounding like he meant every word. Later, in his autobiography Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dog, Rotten wrote that he “felt cheated, and I wasn’t going on with it any longer. It was a ridiculous farce. The whole thing was a joke at that point.”