Stiff Little Fingers: Punk’s not dead

By Lauren McGuffog, The Linc

The return of punk legends Stiff Little Fingers at the Engine Shed on Mother’s Day went largely unnoticed by students. Most of the audience was probably old enough to have bought the band’s first album in 1979, so it was a fairly quiet crowd that greeted the support act, The Band From County Hell.


The Lincolnshire-based band got a few heads nodding and toes tapping but as their energy failed to really infect the crowd. However, their brand of Pogues-esque Celtic folk rock proved the perfect introduction to the night, and they left the stage having managed to draw some bar lurkers towards them. | Photo: Samuel Cox

The lights darkened and the crowd got larger as the headliners took to the stage. A slightly younger audience appeared out of the shadows and gathered at the front to watch. Stiff Little Fingers (SLF) are old pros now. Since the release of their 1979 debut album, Inflammable Material, they have gone on to produce another eight studio albums. Despite numerous line-up changes and a five-year hiatus in the eighties, SLF’s professionalism and ability to write politically charged punk classics still remains.

They began with a three-song onslaught with the third song, Wasted Life, managing to finally inject the crowd with a bit of life and proving that their older material is still the most popular. Having not released an album since 2004’s Guitar and Drum, it is questionable why Stiff Little Fingers have chosen to tour when not promoting a new record.

However, their set included two new songs, which sounded promising, particularly Liar’s Club, which features a fantastic bass line from Ali McMordie. An accompanying and suitably impassioned political rant about the state of the American government was received with appreciative cheers  from the audience, with singer Jake Burns slating George Bush for “the mess he has left behind”.

On a lighter note, a cover of the Specials song ‘Doesn’t Make it All Right’ went down a storm as everyone started dancing to the relaxed ska infused beat, proving there is still a lot of love for home-grown British punk. When they heard the first chords of Suspect Device, the crowd were already jumping skywards. Obviously a popular track, drinking went flying as everyone, young and old united in a bouncing off each other and singing the words “You gotta suss, suss, suss, suss, suss out suss suspect device.”

Although they were probably less mobile than their usual selves due to leg injuries both front man Jake Burns and bassist Ali McMordie, Stiff Little Fingers’ performance was slick and tight. Their attention to  older material paid off as they got a euphoric reception when anything from Inflammable Material was played.

Other highlights of the night included the songs, Barbed Wire Love, Bits of Kids and the Clash influenced track, Strummerville, which all received a good reaction from the audience. Although the final song, Tin Soldier got the best response from the crowd, inspiring a huge sing-a-long and collective dance.

The band departed stage right and left the crowd chanting “Fingers!” until they reappeared onstage to finish with a short but triumphant encore of Johnny Was and Alternative Ulster. They left thanking the crowd and smiling broadly, before hobbling offstage and leaving a bouncy audience eagerly anticipating the long overdue new album. Maybe not the most exciting gig of all time, but certainly a good performance by some seasoned punk veterans.

One Response to Stiff Little Fingers: Punk’s not dead

  1. Mike says:

    Eh? Pretty sure they only played Alternative Ulster… unless I was drunker than I thought!

    The Band From County Hell also gave me tinnitus with their super-heavy bass. But it was worth it! Managed to be right on the barrier, almost in the centre for about 2/3rds of the Fingers too.