Sunday, 6 February 2011

781 STIFF LITTLE FINGERS, Bristol Academy, Wednesday 10 March 2010

The return of the Mad March to Bristol, Take 5, after a year's hiatus due to my knee operation; it's March, it's the Academy, it must be Stiff Little Fingers! This time old punks the Big Man and myself were ferried along by Ady in his monster truck; amazingly the first time I'd travelled to a gig with Ady since SLF in Frome on my Stag event, over 4 years ago!

After hitting the road about 20 to 8, we parked up relatively easily and got into the venue at 8.30. We'd just missed the support, which turned out to have been similar vintage punks Penetration, no less. D'oh! It would have been nice to hear their classic "Don't Dictate", but t'was not to be...

Rich got the beers in at the manically crowded bar - 2 for himself, after a tortuous wait and expensive outcome - and we popped down to the half-full dancefloor (everyone's at the bar!), to be assailed by the splendid "Guitar And Drum" entrance music heralding Stiff Little Fingers onto the stage at an unusually early 8.45. Bursting into opener "Wasted Life" to a wild reception from the punks, old and young, down the front, they nevertheless seemed to take time to settle in. Indeed, tonight's set seemed a little lower-key than the usual politicised ramalama old school punk we're used to from da Fingers, as it drew from a wider selection of their canon, rather than mainly from the first 2 albums, and vocalist Jake Burns himself, a little more rotund even than just a couple of years ago, was initially not his normal fulsome and politically motivated self. However, a blistering "Barbed Wire Love" changed all that, blowing the doors off with a totally enjoyable rendition of this old classic, "the only love song we've written," according to Jake! The doo-wop section was particularly memorable for some deep baritone harmonising from bassist Ali McMordie, who was clearly having a ball up there as usual.

After that, SLF ripped through the remainder of the set with renewed vigour, a brilliantly strident double whammy of "Nobody's Hero" ("about one of the least enjoyable aspects of our job," said Jake) and "Tin Soldiers" being the highlight. A sinewy, rapturously received "Johnny Was" encored, before "Alternative Ulster" capped another worthwhile 1 1/2 hour set overall, as the boys then took a bow from this Bristol crowd, who'd at least been up for it all night. So overall patchy, seen them better, but still a good night out with good company and honest old school punk rock. Will we back next March? Of course!

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