Gig Review: Stiff Little Fingers at Newcastle Academy 15th March 2014

 DSC_0111Stiff Little Fingers are a legendary punk rock band who started out in Belfast in 1977. They wrote about their own experiences growing up in the midst of The Troubles in Northern Ireland.
I first saw SLF at Brixton Academy in March 1990 and can still remember how the audience were totally captured by the energy and passion of the music that the band were belting out. We were booked on the last National Express back home and time was running out but we couldn’t leave until they had played ‘Alternative Ulster’, which was then and still is their grand finale.
I have seen SLF many times since at various locations, they never disappoint! The lineup has changed over the years, musicians have come and gone (and come back again…) but founding member vocalist/guitarist Jake Burns has remained constant. He is an inspirational front man whose voice is as strong and clear as ever.
This tour was prompted by the release of their new studio album ‘No Going Back’ which has just been released.
The Academy was packed out (tickets being sold on the door were for the balcony only), the majority seemed to be middle aged fans who had followed the band over the years judging by the amount of old tour T-shirts i spotted!
Nevertheless it was very lively audience, making themselves heard from start to finish.
The band came on stage, the crowd surged forward, drinks were thrown towards the stage, which i’m told is a tradition!
They launched straight into ‘Straw Dogs’, this was followed by ‘Wasted Life’ and ‘Fade Away’
Jake Burns introduced the first number from the new album, ‘My Dark Places’, it was written about his own personal battle with depression, which with the help of friends and family he has managed to overcome.
After this was the excellent ‘Nobody’s Hero’ and  ‘Silver Lining’, both songs had the crowd enthusiastically singing along.
Then came more old favourites ‘When we were Young’ and ‘Listen to your Heart’
Next was the first of two cover version’s ‘Doesn’t make it Alright’ a ska song originally by The Specials.
The highlight of the night for me was ‘Roots, Radicals, Rockers & Reggae’, it was the first time i had seen/heard it performed live and it was awesome, so full of energy,  much better than the recorded version.
Then came what Jake Burns describes as the nearest thing to a love song that they wrote ‘Barbed Wire Love’, this again went down well with the crowd who were definitely in great voice!
The set  included ‘Fly the Flag’, ‘Tin Soldiers’ and their first single ‘Suspect Device’,  also ‘Strummerville’ which was written as a tribute to the late, great Joe Strummer from The Clash.
The first encore was the other cover version ‘Johnny Was’ which was written by Bob Marley.
After lots of encouragement from the crowd Stiff Little Fingers returned to the stage for a second encore to perform the ever popular ‘At the Edge’ and then as usual they ended with the epic ‘Alternative Ulster’!
Stiff Little Fingers may have been around since the late 1970s but they still sound as good and are still as passionate about their music as ever.
Thank you SLF for a great night!!
Julie Gristwood

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