Stiff Little Fingers/The Godfathers - London, Kentish Town Forum - 28th March 2014 Print E-mail
Written by Jim Rowland   
Saturday, 05 April 2014 03:20

SLF PosterThe last time I saw Northern Ireland’s godfathers of punk rock Stiff Little Fingers was a good ten years ago, when they were supporting their then new album ‘Guitar & Drum’, with Bruce ‘From The Jam’ Foxton handling bass duties. It was a good gig, but not one that really blew me away. Ten years later, they have finally got round to releasing a follow-up to that album, ‘No Going Back’, and original bass player Ali McCordie is back on bass, making this half of the line-up that produced the bonafide classic punk rock albums ‘Inflammable Material’ and ‘Nobody’s Heroes’.


And talking of godfathers, it’s none other than London’s very own The Godfathers that are first up for me tonight, and shamefully I think this is the very first time I’ve actually seen them live. Like most support acts at this venue, they battle against a pretty muddy sound for their set, but deliver a highly enjoyable one never the less to a crowd that swells in size as the set progresses. Resembling a group of bouncers from an Essex nightclub rather than a collection of heads of organised crime networks, The Godfathers deliver gems like the Ramones tribute ‘I Can’t Sleep Tonight’, ‘Johnny Cash Blues’, ‘Primitive Man’ and the outstanding ‘Back Into The Future’ with power and cool aggression. Their previous incarnation as the Sid Presley Experience get a look in with ‘Hup 234’ and set closer ‘Birth, School, Work, Death’ gets a rousing sing along from a most appreciative audience. Don’t mess with The Godfathers.


Surprisingly tonight’s show isn’t a sell-out but it’s a very impressive turnout that gather to give Stiff Little Fingers a hero’s welcome as they launch into ‘Straw Dogs’ and ‘Wasted Life’ as an opening salvo to a set that is packed with old school SLF classics. It’s great to hear both the outstanding singles from the ‘Go For It’ album, ‘Just Fade Away’ and ‘Silver Lining’, with ‘Roots, Radicals, Rockers, Reggae’ also making an appearance from that album. The following year’s ‘Listen’ single gets the obligatory rousing singalong too. In fact only four songs in the set feature from the band’s more recent output and three of those are from the brand new album ‘No Going Back’ - and impressive they all are too. ‘My Dark Places’ deals with some serious subject matter of depression from Jake’s own personal experience, and ‘Throw It All Away’, written and sung by guitarist Ian McCallum, is an impressive pop/rock anthem. Best of the bunch of the new songs though is ‘When We Were Young’, the lyrics of which Jake explains he wrote quite some time ago following a chance encounter with Phil Lynott out on the town soon after the demise of both Lizzy and the original SLF. It’s a cracking tune, and not a million miles away from sounding like Thin Lizzy either.


Aside from the heartfelt Joe Strummer tribute of ‘Strummerville’, the rest of the set is a ream of belters from those classic first two albums. ‘Nobody’s Hero’, ‘Barbed Wire Love’, ‘Fly The Flag’, ‘Tin Soldiers’ and the Specials’ ‘Doesn’t Make It Alright’ all get the crowd singing along almost to every word. It’s hard to pick out an outstanding moment from that lot, but when the band unleash an incendiary set closer of ‘Suspect Device’ the mosh pit explodes, and a sudden rush to the front from the part-time moshers who like “the big hit” ensues. Stiff Little Fingers seem to deliver this perennial punk classic with more venom, gusto and speed than the original version – there’s plenty of life in these old (straw) dogs yet.




The first encore sees SLF deliver their sublime and lengthy take on Bob Marley’s ‘Johnny Was’, which really was a sight to behold, and another one of the evening’s many highlights. It looks like that’s it for the night as the band take a final bow, but to the crowd’s total delight they return for one more encore of ‘At The Edge’, the band’s first big hit single, with the timeless early classic ‘Alternative Ulster’ wrapping things up in suitable punk rock fashion.


Stiff Little Fingers tonight seemed like almost an entirely different band to the one I saw ten years ago. Totally rejuvenated, due in no small part to Ally McCordie’s energy-packed performance and Jake Burns’ Strummer-like control, they surpassed all expectations I had about tonight. Stiff Little Fingers delivered a scintillating set featuring a ream of classic material plus some highly impressive new material from ‘No Going Back’. When they next play London, I’m definitely going back.


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