Pyramids Centre, Portsmouth

Stiff Little Fingers

One late night recently I was flicking through the television channels rolling through the night numbing rubbish you find these days. I then stumble upon a recording of Stiff Little Fingers on Top of The Pops from the 1980’s. Jake Burn’s is wearing a dinner suit and doing his best miming to “Just Fade Away”. It is hard to believe that these guys formed the band in Belfast in 1977 and are still going strong. Their recent well-received album “No Going Back” has given the band a new rejuvenation and this tour sees the band stepping up their game playing some bigger venues. We are in Portsmouth tonight on the seafront at the Pyramid Centre and news reaches us from backstage that Jake has a nasty bout of food poisoning and may not make the gig.

Tonight’s support came from Ricky Warwick, who is known for his recent work with rockers Black Star Riders, and a reformed Thin Lizzy. This as well as his fronting heavy rock band The Almighty who formed in 1988. Ricky has put together a band to tour his two Pledge Music-backed solo releases “When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang the Blues)” and “Hearts on Trees”. The band include Mark Gemini Twaite -Guitar (The Mission, Gary Numan), Robert Crane- Bass (Black Star Riders, Ratt, and Lynch Mob) and Gary Sullivan- Drums. Ricky is an old friend of the headliners and a fellow native of Northern Ireland-there can be no better pairing. The band arrive on stage and kick off with the powerful “Damascus Street”, immediately pulling people away from the bar crowding towards the stage.

Ricky Warwick
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This is Ricky Warwick being himself; no alter ego or preconceived ideas, just playing his own music he has created with a really original style. There are tunes like “Toffee Town”, “Johnny Ringo” and the arse kicking “Celebrating Sinking” where Ricky and Mark’s guitars really impress the Portsmouth crowd. “Schwaben Redoubt” from the “Hearts on Trees” album gets played and disappointingly Jake Burns does not join him as with on the album. The band steps things up with a fantastic version of Black Star Ridersí “Finest Hour” and a spirited version of The Clash’s “Tommy Gun”. The set ends with a surprise chest pounding version of The Almighty’s “Jonestown Mind”, which gets much of the audience excited as it’s a track that has not been heard in a very long time. An exceptional start to the evening and the career of a new band that I really hope to see much more of.

At exactly 9:15pm the lights go down and the familiar intro of “Go for It” starts up. Despite still suffering Jake Burns pulls together all his strength and goes out in front of his adoring audience. If he hadn’t told the crowd about this we’d be none the wiser, it just looks like business as usual. Kicking off with “Wasted Life” at the front of the stage, it erupts with a mass of sweaty bald headed 40-50 something men dancing for all they are worth. The band after all these years can still put together a concert that can beat hands down many of the much younger acts. They still have the energy, the songs and plenty of great stories about their experiences. One such story is detailed in the song “When We Were Young” where Jake tells us that it is written about going on a huge bender in London with Phil Lynott.

Stiff Little Fingers
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After a high energy 90 minute set the band leave the stage only to be brought back by the crowd chanting “Fingers” over and over. A great dusting down of “Gotta Gettaway” continued the momentum before the slightly predictable conclusive number “Alternative Ulster” sends the crowd wild again, with it extracting every last piece of energy they have everyone bouncing up and down to the legendary track. The band leave the stage only at the start of the annual tour knowing this is just a warm up until the big traditional St Patrick’s Day celebration at Glasgow Barrowlands.

Set Lists
Stiff Little Fingers
Intro: Go For It (Tape)
Wasted Life
Just Fade Away
Roots, Radicals, Rockers & Reggae
Guitar & Drum
Nobody’s Hero
Barbed Wire Love
Doesn’t Make It Alright
Silver Lining
Guilty As Sin
At The Edge
My Dark Places
Fly the Flag
When We Were Young
Tin Soldier
Suspect Device

Gotta Gettaway
Alternative Ulster

Ricky Warwick & the Fighting Hearts
Damascus Street
Toffee Town
When Patsy Cline Was Crazy…..
Johnny Ringo
Celebrating Sinking
Schwaben Redoubt
If Your Not Gonna Leave Me
Finest Hour (Black Star Riders)
Tommy Gun (The Clash)
Jonestown Mind (The Almighty)


Words & Videos by David Chinery (Chinners)
Pictures by Jon Musselwhite.

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