O2 Academy, Bournemouth

After roughly two years of Lockdowns & various postponements, finally, this show goes ahead. When the original tour date was announced there was the usual excitement for one and all, and two decent supports to boot. Thankfully the headliners have honoured the booking and kept with the original choices. Any early arrivals get to see the ever-popular and slightly political, one Mr. TV Smith. The Adverts frontman is no stranger to a stage be it alone or with a band.

Tonight we get him solo, looking resplendent in his Punk attire. He announces himself by telling us of the songs he has written in lockdown for his latest album. He opens with “No Time To Be 21” and offers some cheery banter. “Lucky Ones” is about us, the survivors of Covid while “Lockdown Holiday” stays in the same ballpark. “Expensive Being Poor” is accompanied by a rant at our government which garners healthy appreciation, followed by the equally aware “Immortal Rich”. At one point he shows his appreciation for our attendance through the difficulties of the pandemic and War, before launching into “Bounce Back”; about the country’s recovery I guess and despite his obvious political leanings, he delivers his set without rancour throughout. He almost apologetically reminds us of his hit record before giving it another fine airing to finish the set. TV Smith has an effervescent demeanour and humour, while not being out of place on this stellar bill.

TV Smith
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Next up are none other than The Professionals. Unless you’ve been living under a stone these last few years, they feature the inimitable talents of one Paul Cook (of Sex Pistols fame). One by one they appear onstage and open with “Easily Led” from their fine recent album SNAFU. Despite more punters appearing, most are statuesque throughout. Tom (lead vocals) does his best to cajole this local crowd, not least with a storming “Just Another Dream”. “Going Going Gone” from their previous album comes next before the early highlight “Spike Me Baby”. “Good Man Down” seems somewhat apt in the present company but “Silly Thing” garners the first real singalong. Tom once again makes an impassioned plea for us to get in the mood for the headliners but for now it’s statues all around. He even gives “Jonesy” (Steve Jones) a mention while lambasting his lethargy! Latterly one or two find their feet during ‘1,2,3’ which sounds immense tonight, a far cry from their previous show in this town. After addressing us for the last time Tom encourages one last singalong with an encore (of sorts) as they depart us on ‘Steppin’ Stone’, which is quite simply superb. I just wished this crowd showed them the same enthusiasm as was on show along the coast @ Talking Heads (Southampton) five years ago. Anyway, I digress…,

The Professionals
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And so to a headliner that needs no introduction. No strangers to these shores, Stiff Little Fingers are in town and the wait is over. Never a band to go in quietly they launch straight in with three bangers. “Suspect Device” comes first as it erupts down the front. “At The Edge” with its big intro is equally popular while “Fly The Flag” has a whole new meaning this evening. Jake (lead vocals/guitar) is jovial between songs, and is quick to show appreciation to be “back among friends and fans alike”. Tonight’s show is a “best of”, encompassing songs from most of their canon. “Just Fade Away” Jake explains as being about an old flame while “Bits Of Kids” couldn’t be more poignant in current times (post-pandemic). Sandwiched together come “Nobody’s Hero” and “Last Protest Song” while “Roots…” gets the place jumping!

Stiff Little Fingers
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Among many song origin explanations tonight Jake passionately reveals the story behind “Safe As Houses” and praises women for their contribution to the world, rather than just the usual expectation. Despite postponing the two previous dates due to illness, Jake is in fine voice this evening. Ali (bass/vocals) patrols the stage as always while Mike adopts a more shoegaze stance. Steve (drums) is still that formidable powerhouse in the engine room and as a unit they once again deliver. “Barbed Wire Love” sees this 50-something make a move for the pit area as the band really hit their stride in the second half of the set. “Strummerville” allows Jake to reminisce once more while “State Of Emergency” gets a rare outing. Live favourite ‘Wasted Life’ sees the usual carnage down the front while set closer “Gotta Getaway” rightfully gets the singalong it so deserves. The band then exit stage-right, but return for two more songs.

For the encore Jake is sporting a Ukraine T-shirt while quick to show support and solidarity – “Tin Soldiers” is the song of choice and never has it sounded more appropriate. And if that wasn’t enough to whet the appetite they depart us on ‘Alternative Ulster’ as this Bournemouth crowd go wild for the last time.

Two years of waiting clearly hasn’t dimmed the enthusiasm for a band who year on year simply deliver. Tonight the band celebrate their 45th Anniversary, you wouldn’t know it mind – bands come and go but Stiff Little Fingers live, and continue to raise the bar. Yet again 90 minutes of pure joy – long may it continue.

Set Lists
Stiff Little Fingers
Suspect Device
At the Edge
Fly the Flag
Hope Street
Just Fade Away
Bits of Kids
Nobody’s Hero
Last Protest Song
Roots, Radics, Rockers, Reggae
When We Were Young
Safe as Houses
Silver Lining
Barbed Wire Love
State of Emergency
Wasted Life
Gotta Gettaway

Tin Soldiers
Alternative Ulster

The Professionals
Easily Lead
Just Another Dream
Going Going Gone
Spike Me Baby
Good Man Down
Silly Thing
Kick Down the Doors
(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone

TV Smith
No Time to Be 21
Lucky OnesLockdown Holiday
Expensive Being Poor
Immortal Rich
My String Will Snap
Bounce Back
Gary Gilmore’s Eyes



Words by Ross A. Ferrone.
Media by David Chinery (Chinners).

Stiff Little Fingers