Iconic Irish kings of punk, Stiff Little Fingers took to the stage at 170 Russell, bringing with them 39 years of history (give or take five years when they disbanded). During that time the band recorded ten studio albums and E.P’s, released compilations and live albums and have basically kept the love alive since their incarnation in ’77.
Initially singing about ‘The Troubles’ in Ireland, the band has moved on, but still the music is about contemporary issues. They meld the political with the personal in their lyrics, and their 2014 release No Going Back sees Jake Burns singing about his battle with depression and includes songs that condemn racist attitudes and policies in the West.
This tour included material from the very first release Inflammable Material, right up to their most recent recording. Conspicuous in their absence were songs from around the time they disbanded, when the band changed their style from punk to power pop. Even so, Stiff Little Fingers had 21 hits (and almost hits) to share, showing the breadth of their talent and highlighting the fact that fans will remain fans as long as the band continues to perform what they love to hear, and that they will forgive some digressions.
It was difficult to remove our attention from the mosh as many men who would have been listening to the band in 1977 mixed it with younger fans. There was no better compliment they could have paid to Burns (vocals), Ian McCallum (guitar), Steve Grantley (drums) and Ali McMordie (bass) than to jump around and do their fair share of slamming with an attitude of pure, joyful passion. They knew the words, sang along, fist pumped the air and helped the whole performance take us back into the thick of things. It wasn’t difficult to imagine these young men fighting via their music to be heard in a world that had seemingly gone to the shitter.
The highlights of the night had to be the only love song the band has ever written and performed ‘Barbed Wire Love’, and the old favourite ‘Suspect Device’, which was played just before the three song encore. Stiff Little Fingers have evolved and not stagnated. They’ve kept punk totally relevant, which is a good thing in some ways, but reminds us that there are still many issues in the world that have to be made less potent through song.