The Engine Rooms, Southampton
It’s Tuesday night at Southampton’s Premiere music venue The Engine Rooms, as we travel en masse for Punk heavyweights Stiff Little Fingers. The now customary March tour always takes in a South Coast date and this year it’s Southampton’s turn. Due to one of my party baulking at the venue’s drinks prices we partake in a couple of cheap earlies down the road at a nearby “Spoons” meaning we miss the local support act. Two main topics of conversation with a few other “Fingers” fans who are also there take place; football and music, two great levellers. Not wanting to miss the main event we head over to the venue around 8.45. SLF arrive onstage at the unfeasibly late time of 9.15 pm. A near full room great them and the onslaught begins.
There really is something rather special about an SLF show in this city, there’s a certain buzz. They stride onstage one by one to the now customary “Go For It” and announce themselves, launching straight into “Breakout”. A rampant “Straw Dogs” sees the first bit of movement from this crowd. Jake exclaims “Good Evening Southampton, 40 F*cking Years”! Cue huge cheers! Jake is in fine form and no-one tonight begrudges his storytelling. He again discusses his own demons and the subject matter of “My Dark Places” and implores us, “if you’re suffering please, please talk to someone”.
Jake continues with the history, explaining that “Go For It” was his favourite LP release from the first half of their career. There’s a back story to the lyrics of “Safe As Houses” which Jake explains with little fondness. “Nobody’s Hero” follows and the crowd are in full swing now. Ali (bass) to Jake’s right is as energetic as ever, patrolling the stage at regular intervals while Steve (drums) is power personified throughout. Ian (guitar) pogo’s occasionally but Jake tonight has us eating out of the palms of his hands.
Being a 40th Anniversary show Jake decides to dig out some lesser known songs for our pleasure. I have to admit I hadn’t heard “Each Dollar A Bullet” for years, so anyone hoping for a greatest-hits set list might’ve been disappointed. Like most in this room, I appreciate it’s a trawl through the archives that makes it such a great set. “Guilty As Sin” is dedicated to those in authority who should know better and gets an appreciative cheer for Jake’s musings on the lyrical content.
The first of two great drum intro’s greets the start of “At The Edge”, which brings back memories for this 50-year-old of the first time I heard the lyric “it’s exams that count not football teams”….. The mosh pit erupts and a right good singalong accompanies the band through “Barbed Wire Love”. “The Roaring Boys” is just a prelude to what can only be described as the fastest ever version of “Roots, Radicals” I’ve ever witnessed. Jake is in full flow now, as are the band. I have to admit “Piccadilly Circus” is new to me, but no less enjoyable.
The band finish the main set with four early classics. “Wasted Life” is as brilliant as ever, getting more punters in the pit. “Tin Soldiers” enjoys another huge singalong before the explosive “Suspect Device” – that chorus has the whole room singing! “Gotta Gettaway” is sung long and loud once this crowd hear the opening bars – the band then join in and that is the end of the main set. A 5 minute chorus of “FINGERS, FINGERS” brings the band back and “Grantley” begins his second and most emphatic drum intro of the night. “Johnny Was” is played full length to its entirety and once again the band exit stage right.
At 10.50 they return once more and don’t disappoint. “When We Were Young” seems somewhat apt considering the combined age of band and audience, this being a 40th Anniversary show as well. But they save the best ’til last with a frantic “Alternative Ulster”, which this crowd simply go wild to. And that folks is that. The band take a bow and we all leave happy. With this being a 40 year Anniversary show it would’ve been so easy to just do a hits tour, but that’s not their style. Stiff Little Fingers continue to remain in the Punk “Premiership” by virtue of originality, talent and an ability to always keep their audience guessing. While others disappear and fall by the wayside SLF are still at it; regular tours, new material and a will to just carry on-long may that continue. In the words of the band themselves; HANX!!
Just Fade Away
My Dark Places
Safe as Houses
Each Dollar a Bullet
Guilty as Sin
At the Edge
Barbed Wire Love
The Roaring Boys
Roots, Radicals, Rockers & Reggae
Johnny Was (Bob Marley & The Wailers cover)
When We Were Young
Words by Ross A. Ferrone.
Videos by Matt Maybe.