Monday, 28 March 2011

811 STIFF LITTLE FINGERS, Los Comos, Bristol O2 Academy, Sunday 27 March 2011

Death, Taxes, Rip-Off Petrol Prices… and me and the Big Man heading down to Bristol in March to see SLF at the Academy. Some things in life are pretty much nailed-on certainties… This, the 6th time in 7 years we’ve seen the Fingers at the Academy during this month (a run only interrupted in 2009 due to my knee op), was almost curtailed due to my being diagnosed with tonsillitis and being laid up in bed all day Friday. However, I recovered disconcertingly quickly, and was in reasonable fettle for this now-traditional jaunt down to Brizzle. Good times, good company, and vintage punk rock… what more could a body ask for? This time Ady joined us as well, as we hammered down the M4 (Lauda-esque as usual by the Big Man), arriving in good time to get the beers in and chat before the anticipated arrival of support Spear Of Destiny. However, we were instead assailed by Los Comos, a masked band of noiseniks, SOD presumably having pulled at short notice. They were dreadful; ham-fisted lumpen garage rock. A hedgehog-haired old punk lag, tottering precariously on the bar next to us, shouted, “fuck off!” and you had to admire the sentiment. We scuttled off to the safety of the back bar to save our ears until the noise died down.

We then headed onto the dancefloor, deserted early doors but now packed and anticipatory, for a hoped-for early start. However, SLF kept us waiting an unprecedented 45 minutes for their eventual arrival at 9.15 to the usual rabble-rousing “guitar and drum” entrance music, surely the best intro music of any band ever! Opener “Roots” was a little thin on guitar sound but nevertheless precipitated a frenzied and growing moshpit, as the old punks piled in and I kept a watching but jostled brief. SLF mainman Jake Burns, cowboy-shirted and increasingly corpulent (appearing to have gained all the weight Rich and I have lost since last March!) seemed in a hurry early doors, rushing through a quickfire “At The Edge”, before introducing a new number, lyrically slating bankers; good to know the social commentary is still evident!

SLF’s performance was however still running in cruise control at this stage, however manic the moshpit was, and it took a totally unexpected and incendiary “Straw Dogs” to give it a really biting snarl. Thereafter, the set really took an extra “edge”, with strident, frantic versions of “Barbed Wire Love” (Ali McMordie’s mid-song doo-wops initiating a huge sing-along and bringing a huge collective smile, as ever), a venomous “Don’t Call Me Harp”, an action-packed “Nobody’s Hero”, and a dramatic “Tin Soldiers”, Jake strafing the balconies with his guitar neck at the finale. “Suspect Device”, gravelly and growling as ever, brought the set to a crashing conclusion; “we’re gonna blow up in your face,” indeed!

First encore “Johnny Was” was as sinuous and absorbing as ever, this over 30 year old number standing the test of time well, as does most of SLF’s early material. The band then took a deserved bow from the partisan crowd, as “up for it” tonight as I’ve ever seen a Bristol SLF audience, before nevertheless returning for Encore part 2! “Every band in the world’s had a go at this song… now it’s our turn to foul it up,” announced Jake before a thrashy “I Fought The Law”, nevertheless unsurprisingly faithful to the Clash’s version, then an inevitable, anthemic “Alternative Ulster” brought the evening to a close. They’d taken time to warm to it tonight, but ultimately delivered a set as good as I’ve seen them, full of their trademark vintage political yet anthemic punk rock. See you next March for Part 7!

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