|Stiff Little Fingers/Theatre Of Hate – Kentish Town, The Forum – 10 March 2017|
|Written by Jim Rowland|
|Friday, 17 March 2017 04:00|
There have been numerous occasions when I have seen the support/special guest band sink into a muddy, sonic swamp of poor sound at this venue. Tonight though, this is most definitely not the case. Kirk Brandon’s Theatre Of Hate, still featuring three original members, have a gargantuan sound for their special guest set tonight.
What’s more they have a bumper crowd who turn up early to see it, making this feel like a bit of a double bill. Brandon struts the stage with theatrical aloofness and total passion. The crowd respond with passion too, and by the time they finish with arguably their most famous track ‘Do You Believe In The West World’, the Forum is totally rocking to the rafters. Theatre Of Hate deliver an intense and highly impressive set, more so than I was expecting. Next month they play the altogether smaller Garage up the road in Highbury, and those rafters better watch out.
This year marks the 36th anniversary of me buying my first Stiff Little Fingers record – a classic slab of 7” black vinyl of ‘Silver Lining’, picture sleeve too. I’ve still got it. More importantly, this year marks the 40th anniversary of SLF, and that’s what this tour is all about. A lot of the dates on this tour have sold out, and although the ‘sold out’ sticker didn’t hang over this particular date, it can’t have been far short as the venue is packed and the crowd clearly bang up for it as they clap and sing along to the intro tape of ‘Go For It’. The opening salvo is just great and signifies we’re in for a good night as ‘Breakout’ kicks things off, followed by ‘Straw Dogs’ and ‘Just Fade Away’, one of the band’s very finest singles in my book, with the crowd punching the air and singing along from the start.
The set spans the whole of SLF’s career, with a few rarely played choices that Jake Burns describes as ‘off the beaten track’, but are most welcome. Burns declares ‘Safe As Houses’ (incidentally the b-side to that aforementioned ‘Silver Lining’ single) as his favourite track from his favourite SLF album, whilst the relatively more recent ‘Each Dollar A Bullet’ and ‘The Roaring Boys’ both have a strong celtic flavour to them. ‘My Dark Places’, ‘Guilty As Sin’ and the Phil Lynott-inspired ‘When We Were Young’ all feature from 2014’s ‘No Going Back’, proving Jake can still pen a very decent tune indeed.
Of course, no SLF gig would be complete without the usual barrage of the old classics from the first two albums, and the band duly oblige, with ‘Nobody’s Hero’, ‘At The Edge’, ‘Barbed Wire Love’, ‘Wasted Life’ and the superb ‘Tin Soldiers’ all delivered with the energy of old intact. I’m actually at the bar for a quick refill when an incendiary ‘Suspect Device’ is unleashed, possibly faster than the original record, and it could well be the only time I’ve seen a mosh break out at the bar, but I do just about manage to keep hold of my Guinness to return stage front in time for a killer encore. SLF’s interpretation of Bob Marley’s ‘Johnny Was’ is the finest punked-up reggae cover ever released for me, pissing all over The Clash’s ‘Police & Thieves’, and it’s delivered to perfection tonight – a real highlight. For the second encore ‘Gotta Getaway’ gets another huge sing along, before ‘Alternative Ulster’ wraps up what has been an explosive and brilliant performance in fine style.
Stiff Little Fingers show no signs of letting up, and Jake does make the point that despite this being a 40th anniversary celebration, they won’t be calling it a day any time soon. So how have SLF managed to endure, and fill venues of this size 40 years down the line? The answer is simple, and on full display tonight – great, great songs.
Stiff Little Fingers will play a very special 40th anniversary gig on Friday 26 August, when they headline their biggest ever hometown show at Belfast’s Custom House Square. Support will come from The Stranglers, Ruts DC and fellow Belfast punk legends The Outcasts. Tickets are on sale now.
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