Bristol Academy
10th March 2010

I am a latecomer to the world of Stiff Little Fingers. Their 1997 Tinderbox album was my first, despite there having been 6 others dating back to 1979. I thought, you see, that SLF were another sad old punk band trying to recapture past boot boy type glories. As is often the case, I was very wrong. The Tinderbox album was stuffed full of clever hard rock with excellent lyrics and catchy melodies, not anything like I was expecting. I sought out the earlier albums and enjoyed them as well, but I have more affection for the 2 subsequent ones, Hope Street and Guitar & Drum. The problem with a band like SLF is that they have loads of rabid long term fans who much prefer the old stuff, so whenever I see them I am in a minority with the songs I want to hear. Ho hum, such is life…

I miss the support band, mainly because I wanted to watch Manchester United humble Inter Milan, and am glad to see the venue is nicely packed. The band start off with “Wasted Life” from their debut album, with it’s catchy tune making it a good opener. The sound is strong, as is vocalist Jake Burns’ voice. When all most people know you for is the shouty “Alternative Ulster” it’s hard to cement a rep as a good singer, but Burns voice has improved over the years and has a distinctive tone that suits the material down to the ground. Add to that the fact that he plays some mean lead guitar as well and you have a formidable fontman in anyone’s book.

I get a nice surprise when a few tracks are included from the bands last album Guitar & Drum, starting with the brilliant ode to Joe Strummer, “Strummerville”. The title tracks also gets an outing, as does “Who Dies & Made You Elvis”, played for the first time on this tour, labelled the “Breakout” tour. We also get a brand new track that is yet to be recorded in the form of “Liar’s Club”, a typical Burns song about how much he loves and trusts politicians. It’s actually a great song and makes me impatient for the next album. After all, it’s been six years now! Other interesting set inclusions are “Bits Of Kids”, “Hits & Misses” and “Fade Away”, with the band trying to at least very their touring set. Nothing from Tinderbox, Hope Street or (more surprisingly) Flags & Emblems though.

There’s no surprise in the fact that the crowd lap it all up eagerly. SLF are nothing if not a well rehearsed, passionate live band, and the loyalty of their fans is legendary. There’s an almost constant moshpit in front of the stage, even for the slower songs like “Barbed Wire Love”, although elsewhere the atmosphere is pretty friendly and relaxed. We’re all having a good time, with many just enjoying the memories some songs bring back. The set is a strong ninety minutes, ending predictably with “Alternative Ulster”. The band have had a good night, and so have the packed crowd. Hopefully the future will see a new album and a good reshuffle of the set list, but either way I have a feeling that SLF will be still burning for a while yet.

For 9 videos from the gig (including “Liars Club”) go to

Review and photos Alan Holloway
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