Stiff Little Fingers wound the clock back at The Gov on Wednesday night, performing a blistering twenty song selection of their finest moments from across their forty year career.
A surprisingly large and excited crowd sang along lustily with a generous dose of early ‘hits’ such as ‘Wasted Life’, ‘Nobody’s Hero’, ’Suspect Device’ and ‘Alternative Ulster’, and were equally as vocal fist punching the air and roaring along to songs from 2003’s ‘Guitar & Drum’ album and 2014’s ‘No Going Back’.
Jokingly assuming the crowd was so large because people must have missed out on Noel Gallagher tickets across the road, singer Jake Burns informed us all early in the set that we would be getting no violins, or keyboard sweeps here, just the unadulterated power of the guitar and the drum – and the band delivered on that promise in spades.
Jake Burns’ voice was loud and clear throughout the set and he did not let his energy level flag at any time throughout the show.
Ali McMordie on bass, Ian McCallum on guitar and the machine-like Steve Grantley on drums, have all been playing together long enough now to be excused for playing these songs in their sleep, but all tapped into their original punk well source to deliver a convincing and re-energised take on their well-loved repertoire.
Reminding us of the band’s mortality though, were two or three moments where Burns reflected on fallen comrades such as drummer John Bradbury of The Specials (once Chrysalis label-mates of SLF), Joe Strummer, and Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott, before performing a musical tribute of sorts for each.
In the case of Lynott, Burns introduced the poignant ‘When We Were Young’ as a song that took him 30 years to write, having started it in the early 1980’s the day after a long night on the turps with the Lizzy front-man spent lamenting a downturn in both of their careers and where they both ended up ‘commiserated as newts’. He finished the song in 2014.
Burns also confessed to being prone to bouts of depression, urging anyone in the audience also suffering from the condition to make sure they talk to someone about it as the first step to recovery. The band then broke into an impassioned and defiant version of the song ‘My Dark Places’.
After a three song encore – which featured ‘Johnny Was’ (an oddly deconstructed extended workout) from their debut album, as well as punk standards ‘Gotta Getaway’ and ‘Alternative Ulster’ – the crowd reluctantly began filing out slowly, and snatches of overheard conversation – ‘How fuckin’ great was that! – confirmed satisfaction levels were high.
It may have taken Stiff Little Fingers four decades to come to Adelaide and play a full set but there were obviously a lot of people extremely happy that they finally made the trip.
Earlier in the evening Adelaide support bands Young Offenders, and the wizened old Meatbeaters both played tight, punchy short sets that were well received by punters, setting up an appropriate mood of expectation for what was to follow.
Reviewed by Ken Grady
Photos by Lauren McAleer