LIVE: Stiff Little Fingers, Kentish Town Forum 26/03/15
Plus support Electric River and Love Zombies
Photos © Trudi Knight. All images are subject to copyright laws. All rights reserved.
It’s always good to see Electric River live, but I’m approaching tonight’s gig with a slight sense of trepidation. Since I last saw Ashford’s finest in the autumn, they’ve slimmed down to a three-piece with rhythm guitarist Chris having left to concentrate on other things, and maybe this is just me, but I’ve known a few bands down the years where taking half the guitar firepower out can really affect the live sound badly.
Tonight, you’ll be pleased to hear, is not one of those nights. Electric River take to the stage for what must surely be one of the biggest gigs they’ve ever played and plough through their half hour set with the sort of force that belies their new power trio status, right from the moment Calling Out comes burning out of the traps. It’s a similar set to what we’ve previously seen with a couple of new songs thrown in (recent EP track Lowlight and another un-named newie which I’m guessing will be on their third album). Frontman/bassist Sponge and guitarist Will sprint around the stage like this is the opportunity they’ve been waiting for all their lives, getting the crowd singing along to Keep The Engine Burning and Chorus Of Fire before it’s all over way too soon. Good stuff – rest assured that there’s no danger of this band losing their fire.
Love Zombies are handed the unenviable task of following that and to be honest, I can’t help but think that the support slots might have worked better the other way round tonight, mainly because while Electric River are currently preparing for their third album, the Zombies are at present only a handful of EPs into their career, meaning their material’s a bit less familiar to the audience tonight.
Credit to them though, they give it a hell of a go. They’ve got an energy and enthusiasm that carries them through, not least frontwoman Hollis, a whirling dervish in an Alice In Wonderland dress who definitely has the charisma to shine on a stage like this – maybe not a surprise that Ginger Wildheart has recently added her to his Hey! Hello! project. Musically they’re solid rather than spectacular (best tracks of the night are former single Pour On Gasoline and Be Honest), but there’s nothing to suggest that with a bit more practice and experience they could be genuine contenders.
It’s safe to say that I’ve seen Stiff Little Fingers live quite a few times over the last 15 years or so and they give a good account of themselves tonight. The stuff you’d expect (Suspect Device, Alternative Ulster etc) is present and correct, but listening to the full set, you can’t help but think it’s a bit unfair that a lot of the coverage of SLF mainly concentrates on their first album, when they’ve actually been a pretty consistent band throughout their career in terms of quality.
Kicking in with a one-two of Nobody’s Heroes and their biggest hit At The Edge, it’s a mix of the old (Roots, Radicals, Rockers, Reggae, Just Fade Away), the new-ish (a rare run through ’90s highlight Harp) and the new with a few tunes culled from last year’s No Going Back, including Full Steam Backwards and My Dark Places, which Jake Burns prefaces with a speech about the song’s subject of depression – “if you’re suffering from it then for fuck’s sake, tell someone, it’ll help you”. Burns is definitely one of the more charismatic frontmen on the punk circuit, and his introductions of the songs definitely help the set along while behind him the current SLF line-up (original bassist Ali McMordie, plus guitarist Ian McCallum and drummer Steve Grantley, who are both well into their second decade with the group) keep things tight and focussed – it’s to their credit that they play a lot of the old stuff faster now than when it was recorded!
All in all, tonight was a good night with all three bands giving a good account of themselves. Definitely one of the best gigs I’ve been to so far this year.