Stiff Little Fingers : Manchester March 2013 : live review
Stiff Little Fingers
15th March 2013
photos : Alex Staszko
The first time I saw SLF was 1981 at the Apollo. Back then they were big, back then political punk rock was in the charts and there were many groups about who would mean a lot to people for the rest of their lives, The Clash, The Jam, The Damned, The Specials & yes, Stiff Little Fingers. I seriously doubt that any of today’s current chart acts will mean anything to anyone 30 odd years on, what when wrong? There’s a place today for all sorts of music, but there seems to be no credible alternative to chart pap. So where do one of the old punk rock bands fit today?
In a very comfortable place actually, they sound fucking great tonight, they’re tight & are still writing political songs, 3 new tunes are aired tonight, & they stand up well with the classic back catalogue.
Tonight’s supports are a blast from the past too, opening up is a solo Ed Tudor Pole, best known for his stint on channel 4’s “The Crystal Maze”, he has a punk rock past, “Who Killed Bambi” from “The Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle” is played, & he freely admits it’s not his best song, as is his one & only chart smash “The Swords Of A Thousand Men”, which has people unpunkly waltzing at the back of the room, very odd as he’s a man with just a guitar, but very entertaining for half an hour, his other memorably song is about a North East audience telling him to “Fuck Off”!
Other support is The Men They Couldn’t Hang. They’ve been performing their punk folk stuff for 20 plus years now & have always washed over me to be honest, but tonight’s set is pretty good, I remember “Cable Street” and some of the other numbers from various support slots & festivals over the years, & they go down well tonight.
SLF have assembled a good bill here to appeal to a good sizeable audience, but it’s a little quiet tonight, certainly quieter than recent years, a great shame really, as SLF are on top of their powers & the supports are certainly worth a watch too.
SLF come on to their old 1981 backing track “Go For It” from the album of the same name, and it’s clear from the opening 3 song salvo of “At The Edge”, “Wasted Life” & “Roots, Radicals, Rockers & Reggae” that they’re loved by the crowd. It’s been a long long time since I’ve seen a moshpit like it. They sound great, did anyone mention Green Day? Old classics are fired through, “Fly The Flag”, “Nobody’s Hero”, piss take love song “Barbed Wire Love”, alongside newer classics, like singer Jake Burns’s ode to Joe Strummer, “Strummerville” & “Hope Street”. It’s been a while since I’ve seen ‘em & it did surprise me a little how their post reformation songs have become classics also with the SLF faithful.
As well as Jake, only bass player Ali McMordie survives from the old days, but the songs sound better than ever. Of the new unreleased songs played tonight, “Trail of Tears” is best, & fits in well with the older songs. Old rarely played (back in the day) B-side “Straw Dogs” sounds fucking fantastic & the moshpit love it. The set ends with debut single “Suspect Device”, but it’s getting near curfew time, but they come back on for an encore of The Ruts’ “Staring At The Rude Boys”, they were worried they wouldn’t do it justice, but boy they did. This runs into 5 ½ minute single “Tin Soldier”, but it’s already past curfew time, unbelievably The Ritz let them carry on & also let them return for classic single “Alternative Ulster”. They end about 1115.
All that’s left now after a great gig is to stock up on T-shirts at the ludicrously overstocked merch desk, actually akin to a small shop these days in the number of different designs available. If you’ve ever seen SLF before, check ‘em out next time, you won’t be disappointed.