LIVE: Stiff Little Fingers, Kentish Town Forum 28-03-14
One of the better bands to be doing the punk revival circuit, Stiff Little Fingers have been reformed for so long now, you could probably argue that the reformed version is the definitive, playing fairly regularly in one form or another since 1987, and centred on the one constant that is frontman and main songwriter Jake Burns. Perhaps less acerbic punk and more a general rock band these days, they have nevertheless continued to release new material throughout, with their tenth studio album, No Turning Back, released last month. And crowd-funded at that too, it turns out you can teach some old dogs new tricks.
Evidently not all old dogs though. Opening for SLF tonight we have The Godfathers, and I think it’s fair to say, in 2014 they’re a band who have seen better days. Originally positioning themselves as The Kray twins with guitars in their 80s/90s heyday, it’s all gone a bit Eastenders pub-rock for The Godfathers, both in appearance and the ongoing melodramatic infighting. Attempting the cool hardman look onstage, tonight they come across instead as a band that can’t, or just can’t be bothered to, put much energy into their performance. Still, a couple of the hits sounded ok, and it has to be said, frontman Peter Coyne is still one of very few people who can make a tambourine look menacing.
It is very obvious just before Stiff Little Fingers come on that their following here is pretty dedicated. Sure, it’s not that strange to have fans singing along to the intro tape, but SLF’s intro tape doesn’t even have any words and they’ve got a good portion of the room der-der-da-daing along.
From the outset, the difference in attitude between them and their supports is obvious – they not only want to be here, but are enjoying it, displaying an energy that could almost suggest they were 10 years the junior of their supports, rather than the other way round. Burns remains an engaging and charismatic frontman, even though most of his between song chat is lost through a combination of his heavy Belfast accent and a booming PA, and special mention should also go out to original bass player Ali McMordie for throwing himself around the stage with far more energy than is decent for a man in his mid-fifties.
As you might expect, all the oldies get a good airing plus tracks off the new album, and yes they played Suspect Device and Alternative Ulster, last song of the main set and last song of the encore respectively (well they wouldn’t last long on the circuit if they didn’t). But any band can keep plugging away at their old hits, the difference here is that Stiff Little Fingers have remained creatively active, which makes the bits between the hits a much more interesting place than some of the competition, and really does breathe new life into the show.