WORDS AND IMAGES WARREN MILLAR
The legends of Irish punk rock “Stiff Little Fingers” brought their Summer tour to Parr Hall, Warrington Friday night. Formed during the height of the troubles in 1977. They were the first punk band in Belfast to release a record – the “Suspect Device” single came out on their own independent label, Rigid Digits.
After six years and four albums, they split up. They reformed five years later, in 1987. Despite major personnel changes, they are still touring and recording. In 2014, the band released their tenth studio album and a world tour followed its release. Jake Burns, their lead singer, is the only member to have been with the band during all its incarnations, but in March 2006, original bass guitarist Ali McMordie rejoined them following the departure of The Jam bass player Bruce Foxton after fifteen years.
All Music’s Warren Millar was there to catch this iconic Belfast punk rock bands gig in Warrington.
As the U.K. prepares for a heat wave with temperatures reaching record heights we make our way to Parr Hall, Warrington, where we hope the heat will be turned up tonight for the visit of Stiff Little Fingers. We also face change in our political future with the up coming election by the Tory party for a new Prime Minister during troubling times over here. It seems like the mid 70’s when Punk came at a similar troubled time. The “don’t give a fuck” anti-establishment movement really did kick off big style. All of this got me thinking, We do need something like the punk music revolution of the 70s to kick off again don’t we?
In support of Stiff little Fingers tonight is TV Smith, founder of the 70’s punk band “The Adverts”, remember “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” and “One Chord Wonders” two of their biggest hits ? Anyway tonight he is solo, just himself, looking every inch a true punk rocker, and his acoustic guitar. Despite the lack of real punk band backing him his voice and guitar still blast out at Parr Hall and he gives us a real taste of the true original spirit of punk rock. Toward the end of his set and before he delights the crowd with a brilliant solo rendition of “Gary Gilmores Eyes” we are even presented with some spoken word poetry from this still very talented punk rocker. During his little chats between songs he tells us he is now 66 years of age and now has a bus pass and is thinking of creating a new style of punk called “Bus Pass Punk” . This man for his age can move about on stage just like the great days of punk make no mistake !!
During the interval and as the stage crew did the changeover over the P.A. came some familiar mid 70’s TV theme tunes. It was fun guessing the theme tune which included such classics as “Only Fools And Horses”, “Batman”, “The Wombles”, “Steptoe And Son” and “It Aint Half Hot Mum” amongst many others. Think I got most of them !
The last theme tune was “Minder” and then the house lights came down and even louder over the P.A. came the now familiar walk on tune for Stiff Little Fingers ”Go For It” much to the delight of their very loyal fans. As Go For It Blasted out the crowd sang along at the right moments in the song Dur Dur Dur ………. Dur Dur Dur Dur Dur its was electrifying to see and hear. If you’r not sure what it’s like just google search Stiff Little Fingers “Go For It” You’ll see what I mean.
Against a brilliant comic strip background and also amp covers in the same comic strip design which we thought were amazing to the eye their set kicked off with “Suspect Device” the bands very first single release. Jake Burns now totally clean shaven on top and his voice has lost nothing in the years. The man still has it. Following up with “At The Edge” and “Fly The Flag” was a dream first three songs which set the scene and got the place bouncing right from the get go.
The set list is full of classics such as “Bits Of Kids” and “Safe As houses” which really does show off Jakes vocals to the limit. The band are tight and yet still “As Punk As Fuck” in the true spirit of punk.
Ali McMordie on bass looks every inch a “Bad Ass” punk bass player and moves about on stage like a teen on Red Bull. Steve Grantley keeps the punk rhythms alive and rocking on drums and Ian McCallum on guitar knows his stuff inside out. The band totally have an understanding both individually and as a team which is a real joy to watch.
All in all this was one hell of a gig, a trip down the Punk memory lane when times were hard, when the establishment thought they had the upper hand. When ordinary people struggled with low pay and bad working conditions. When all they could do was survive the best they could and protest or strike against the powers that thought they had us by the balls. Punk gave us the ani-establishment right to fight back, to rebel and to be what we wanted to be no matter what others thought of us. It worked in my opinion and it changed the dull old ways of music in a way not many styles of music ever has.
Maybe we need something like Punk to re light the fire we all have in our bellies again. A movement like no other to show us that we do matter and we should be counted ? Perhaps TV Smith was right tonight and “Bus Pass Punk” is the way to do it ……… Ya never know.
1/ Suspect Device
2/ At The Edge
3/ Fly The Flag
4/ Dark Places
5/ Fade Away
6/ Bits Of Kids
7/ Nobody’s Hero
8/ Last Protest Song
11/ Safe As Houses
12/ Silver Lining
13/ Barbed Wire Love
16/ Wasted Life
17/ Gotta Get Away
18/ Tin Soldiers
19/ Alternative Ulster
FOLLOW STIFF LITTLE FINGERS
FOLLOW TV SMITH
Warren is a live music and festival photographer based in Cheshire and covers gigs/festivals mostly in the North West of England. He has been photographing live music for over 10 years and has covered major artists and festivals