So it was the Misfits, Exploited and the the Buzzcocks in town over the last few months but now its time for Stiff Little Fingers. This is a real treat for me tonight because the first SLF set up (late seventies and very early eighties) defined my musical tastes when moving to secondary school, trying to make sense of the world and listening to this band as a voice from inside the images we would see on our TVs at night (I was living in Scotland at that point). So its a real buzz being back, although I’ve lost count how often I have seen this band and variants, who never disappoint and always cheer you up. The only disappointing thing is that there are so many SLF fans here that the bar is five deep. Squeezing past the football tops, some great Defects gear and every kind of SLF memorabilia, I make it to the bar and manage to have a conversation with everyone. Any Scottish, English or Irish postcode not represented here? Lots of Australian fans, which was great to see, and they were as passionate as the diehards.
Nothing parts a punk crowd like a pint of Guinness, so we slip next door and watch the support. The Young Offenders are your classic punk trio. Shoe gazing bass player that specialises in avoiding all eye contact, except with the drummer, and a drummer that constantly looks like he is going to bust a sphincter and manages to stare everyone down, without looking at the bass player. The guitarist is also the vocalist and it was a pretty solid outing. Reminded me greatly of Wolfpack but thoroughly enjoyed this. Suggest you check the band out through Facebook as their music is readily available. Saw the vocalist mosh like a demon during SLF so that gets you extra points. The MeatBeaters, who I really hope have an album called, ‘Spank the Monkey’, are a four piece with drums, bass and two guitarists, one being the vocalist. These guys were more on the hard rock side of the fence but had a good chunky sound. Phrasing reminded me a lot of later Hawkwind or very early Motorhead, so it was no surprise when they finished their set with Bomber. It did little for me apart from remind me how much we lost when the big man departed. I’d have put the MeatBeaters on first and let the Young Offenders play longer.
Ok, I’m in position, in the pit. Being handed phones to copy the setlist, taking photos, being told SLF stories and watching the crowd sway left to right, backwards and forwards. The full house moves with ease as it is well lubricated. The lights dim and ‘Go For It’ fires up. How good does that sound! The crowd is up and there is excitement in the air. It’s electric as SLF take the stage and whip into ‘Wasted Life’, then ‘Just Fade Away’ and ‘Roots, Radicals, Rockers and Reggae’. What a start, but ‘Nobody’s Hero’, thats the one, thats the song that really got me into SLF. I remember seeing them on TV, probably Top of the Pops in late 1980 and thinking I really have to see this live. You know what, the Tshirt in front says it all, “Older, Fatter, Balder but still Fucking Punk”. That song sums up the entire movement for me and its played with as much gusto as the day I first heard it and everytime since. Anyway, I’m wandering into the past.
‘Barbed Wire Love’ starts the sing-a-long before we have the next three song mosh and Special’s dancing. I know I’ve changed generations when the guy next to me gets his wine knocked out of his hand by a flying body. Bodies at SLF yes but the wine drinking in the heaving, front rows, is a nice touch. He slopes off to the bar. I don’t remember hearing ‘Liar’s Club’ live before and its a great song showing that the passion never really fades. Jake tells us that, ‘I’m drivin’ the car and Blair and the other one are on the radio. I’m not happy. This song wrote itself’.
And the night goes on and SLF are are tight as I can remember. They still live the words and I’m wondering, while grinning like an maniac, why Jake hasn’t been celebrated as a giant of the Irish music scene equal to some others. By the time ‘Tin Soldiers’ and the un-fucking-believable ‘Suspect Device’ kick in I’m a serious chance of starting a petition. This man, this band, still play the music that inspired people to watch the news, read the paper and think. The night finishes with a trilogy in the encore, closing with, what else but, ‘Alternative Ulster’. By the time of the second chorus, “They say they’re a part of you…But that’s not true you know, they say they’ve got control of you….and that’s a lie that you know…they say you will never be..FRREEEEEEE”. The place has melted and everyone is grinning. That was an immense set and those songs are as strong as the day they were written. Life may have changed, or at least become a different fight, but those songs remain as firm as the day we got our hands on the vinyl.
Its a joy to watch SLF and its been a joy as a kid, as an adult then getting the gift of reviewing them. So…St Patricks Day at the Barrowlands , Glasgow next year? Anyone??
Go for It (Intro) Wasted Life Just Fade Away Roots, Radicals, Rockers & Reggae Guitar and Drum Nobody’s Hero Barbed Wire Love Listen Doesn’t Make It Alright Silver Lining Liar’s Club At the Edge Strummerville My Dark Places Fly the Flag When We Were Young Tin Soldiers Suspect Device Johnny Was Gotta Gettaway Alternative Ulster
Reviewer – Craig Grant
[FAG id=12801] ]]>