Stiff Little Fingers at The Pyramids Centre, Southsea REVIEW: ‘On incendiary form’

Punk forerunners Eddie And The Hot Rods open on what is billed as their last ever tour.

Monday, 25th March 2019, 11:57 am
Updated Monday, 25th March 2019, 12:01 pm
Stiff Little Fingers' frontman Jake Burns at The Pyramids Centre, Southsea, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. Picture by Paul Windsor

Towards the end of the set frontman Barrie Masters’ voice is shot, as he fully admits. But the warmth and support of the crowd carries him through their biggest hit Do Anything You Wanna Do and a cover of rock staple Gloria.

It’s an affectionate send-off for a band who crawled out of the pub rock scene more than 40 years ago.

This tour is ostensibly to mark 40 years of Stiff Little Fingers’ debut album Inflammable Material.

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Stiff Little Fingers' bassist Ali McMordie sports the T-shirt of Pompey punks The Dinz during their encore. Picture by Paul Windsor

But having done the ‘play the full album’ thing for its 30th, the Belfast-born band are choosing only to cherry-pick from it this time, alongside plenty of gems from their extensive back catalogue.

They’ve never been short of righteous fury, unafraid to tackle the issues around them head-on, and as they kick off with Law and Order from that debut, age hasn’t dimmed that fury any.

And by song three they’ve played their first single, a true classic of the era – Suspect Device. It sets off a mosh-pit in the rammed Pyramids that doesn't let up for the rest of the show.

Led by Jake Burns, with original bassist Ali McMordie back in the fold since 2006, and both drummer Steve Grantley and guitarist Ian McCallum members for more than 20 years, the solid line-up and commitment to new music has kept the band relevant and engaged – not just trading on past glories.

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Jake Burns looks back on his band’s career

Much as their brand of punk boils with well-directed anger, Jake is an engaging frontman, so we get to hear how last time they played here he had to keep rushing off stage due to food poisoning, and the celebratory Guitar and Drums which he dedicates to Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh with a rather rude quip, eliciting a huge cheer.

There’s also questioning of excessive police force in 16 Shots, an impassioned cry of how there’s a direct line from what Trump says to incidents like the terrorist attack in Christchurch before Harp, and Guilty as Sin is prefaced by an attack on the Catholic Church and anyone who abuses the position of trust between an adult and child.

But it’s the preamble to one of the newer songs they play, My Dark Places, which hits home hardest. Jake talks of the recent death of The Prodigy’s Keith Flint, his own depression and how 4,000 men take their own lives each year – reminding people to reach out if they need help. It's clearly heartfelt.

No matter the subject matter though, the band have always had a winning way with an anthem.

For the encores, one of Jake’s solo tracks, ‘a love song’, Drinkin’ Again highlights his celtic roots, before barrelling straight into Tin Soldiers and then there’s only one song left they could finish on – Alternative Ulster.

On this kind of incendiary form, it’s no surprise to see the band are playing to their biggest crowds in years.