Pyramids Centre, Portsmouth

Stiff Little Fingers

It’s Saturday night in Pompey and the South Coast’s Punk fraternity are out in force. Stiff Little Fingers are in town, about to blow the roof off this coastal venue. For me it’s a first seeing SLF in this room, having witnessed at least five visits to The Wedgewood Rooms on previous tours.

We arrived late having been exhaustively seeking free parking, with no luck! Tonight’s support is in full flow as we head to a heaving bar – safe to say there’s a healthy turnout tonight. Having recently witnessed Eddie and The Hotrods at Butlins Minehead I knew what to expect. Barrie {vox) is as gravel-throated as ever and at times struggles to get a few lines out. However, he is ably assisted by Richard and Chris, (guitars respectively). With the 100 deep bar queue finally conquered we move to the front, just in time to catch their standout number and top ten hit “Do Anything You Wanna Do”. Barrie uses this crowd well on the choruses and gets the place jumping. I kind of wished we’d arrived earlier as they are in fine form – their brand of old school RnR not lost on this ageing crowd. They depart us on a rampant “Gloria” which seems to go on forever – Barrie again milking the crowd for an extended chorus or five! They then depart to great applause as we await the headliners.

As the lights go down on some curiously chosen Glam Rock numbers the opening bars of “Go for It” kick in. A huge cheer goes up as Jake and the boys confidently stride onstage. There’s no half measures to this evenings performance as they dive in head first with a couple of bangers. The pit erupts immediately on ‘Law and Order’ and the energy levels rise again on a raucous “At The Edge”. Jake I felt was feeling his way in on the first three numbers, however he really let’s go on an early outing for “Suspect Device”. He aims his customary swipe at talent show hosts with the note-perfect “Guitar and Drum” and is in fine voice on “Strummerville”. Tonight’s show musically has a rawness about it; loud with a touch of harshness, but no less enjoyable echoing memories of their early years. Steve’s (Grantley’s) snare, in particular, sets the tone for the whole show, while Jake reminisces his last visit with maybe a tad too much information regarding a bout of food poisoning. There’s a good mix of material to tonight’s set with songs like “16 Shots” and “Silver Lining” getting an outing.

Stiff Little Fingers

Looking around me though at the age of tonight’s audience it’s the big hitters everyone is here for. Jake’s gravelly tones are harshest on the intro line to “Wasted Life”, before the song literally explodes with power. This now sweaty pit responds with equal gusto. As they reach the chorus of crowd favourite “Listen” my colleague turns to me and says £1.10 or less (for all the anoraks)!! Jake sets up Ian (guitars) for his one vocal offering with “State of Emergency” before offering a heartfelt plea to all of us if encountering depression(s); to “for fucks sake talk to somebody”, whilst lamenting the sad passing of one Keith Flint. This gets a great round of applause before the now obligatory “My Dark Places”. With nearly an hour gone they end the main set on two bangers. “Nobody’s Hero” gets the trademark singalong but they save the best ’til last. A gentle jam suddenly comes to life in the opening bars of “Gotta Getaway”. Jake orchestrates this fervent crowd whilst bellowing “Go On Ya Fuckers” – the room explodes into a mosh frenzy! And that is where they depart us.

Stiff Little Fingers

A five-minute break later they arrive back on stage. Jake then recalls a track he was asked to write for a Folk/Punk LP that was seemingly lost to the vaults of time. Thankfully it has been resurrected for the tour. “Drinkin’ Again” is your classic Irish Folk/Punk song which wouldn’t be out of place at any St. Paddy’s Day shindig. Luckily for us it’s in a hot, sweaty music venue in Portsmouth on a Saturday night. How would they follow that you ask? Well it just had to be “Tin Soldiers” didn’t it. And lastly a word for Ali (bass), who once again is chief shapeshifter all night long. A tumultuous “Alternative Ulster” is tonight’s outro as a surge of middle-aged bodies head down the front for one last time. I have to say tonight’s crowd size surprised me, but it was fully deserved. Someone recently asked me why the likes of The Stranglers, The Damned and Stiff Little Fingers still pull the numbers? I replied it is purely down to professionalism. Tonight as I said earlier, there were no half measures – the band know their audience after all these years and still deliver. And on tonight’s showing I don’t see the band slowing down either – long may that continue.

Stiff Little Fingers

Set List
Go For It (Intro)
Law and Order
At The Edge
Suspect Device
Guitar and Drum
16 Shots
Silver Lining
Guilty as Sin
Wasted Life
Can’t Get Away With That
State of Emergency
My Dark Places
Just Fade Away
Nobody’s Hero
Gotta Gettaway

Drinkin’ Again
Tin Soldiers
Alternative Ulster




Words & Video by Ross Ferrone.

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