One of the finest punk bands to come out of Ireland “Stiff Little Fingers” brought their “Everyone is Someone” U.K. tour to the Manchester Academy Friday night. All Music UK’s Warren Millar was there alongside the diehard SLF fans to capture the scenes.
Together with the likes of The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Damned, Buzzcocks, and Sham 69 – Stiff Little Fingers were right at the front of the line of the punk rock movement. Formed in the middle of the Northern Ireland troubles in Belfast in 1977 they are still touring and have a loyal and large fan base both nationally and internationally.
So after a short drive down the M62 motorway and into Manchester City Centre in dry conditions we arrive at our venue tonight, Manchester Academy, just as the rain starts, they don’t call Manchester “the rainy city” for nothing! Manchester has 4 Academy Venues right in the centre of the Manchester University campus and tonight we are at the biggest one. As we get into the concert venue we notice punk rockers of all ages, coloured hair and Mohawk hairstyles are in abundance tonight.
First up we are treated to a brilliant musical history trip of good old rock and roll from “Slim Jim Phantom”. Headed by “Stray Cats” drummer “Slim Jim Phantom” and alongside his wife Jennie Vee (Eagles of death metal) on bass and San Diego-based guitarist Rex Elle. Starting the set with the Stray Cats “Rumble in Brighton” This is authentic three-piece rock and roll, no frills just pure great sounding rock and roll bangers. Slim Jim sets the beats standing at his drum kit his stunning wife Jennie dances around the stage laying down some classic bass lines and Rex shreds her guitar in true rock and roll style. We get Buddy Holly’s ‘Oh Boy’, a great version of ‘That’s Alright (Mama)’ before ending the 40 min set with two “Stray Cats” numbers ‘Stray Cat Strut’ and ‘Rock This Town’ both of which managed to get the ever-growing crowd warmed up and suitably hyped for the Stiff Little Fingers.
During the stage reset, we are somewhat bemused by the tunes being played over the PA. Such classics as ‘Hole In The Ground’ by Bernard Cribbins and the unmistakable cover of ‘You’re The One That I Want’ by Hilda Baker and Arthur Mullard, well made us smile anyway.
Then over the PA and a little louder, we get the classic walk-on tune for Stiff Little Fingers “Go For It”. The crowd go mad singing and clapping along as the Stiffs take to the stage. It’s straight into “Straw Dogs” lead man Jake Burns sounds as good ever as the band rip into their first song. The second song we are treated to “Nobody’s Hero” is received with cheers and fist pumps from the now ecstatic crowd. The academy by now is bouncing in tribute to their musical heroes. “Nobody’s Hero” seems to just melt from high-energy punk to a more reggae/punk tune of Bunny Wailers’ “Roots, Radicals, Rockers and Reggae” with the beat being led by drummer Steve Grantley as original bassist Ali McMordie spins jumps and whips the crowd up to a frenzy stage left and guitarist Ian McCallum seems to be taking all the energy in his own style of cool.
We are then introduced to a new song “The Tower in London” by Burns as he pays tribute to the 72 people who died in Grenfell Tower. It’s just what you expect from a “Stiff Little Fingers” song with straight-to-the-point lyrics “Sitting on your arses in the House of Lords”. It’s a solid poignant slower-paced tribute to the poor 72 souls, a song full of historical and political angst and is faultless in its performance live.
Without a doubt, tonight’s gig was one of the best we have seen Stiff Little Fingers perform recently. They still have that raw punk energy even though the years are now catching up with the guys. How long they can keep this up for is anyone’s guess but we for one hope they can for quite a long time and look forward to the next live gig from “The Stiffs”. It’s still raining as we leave the venue but to be honest we either don’t notice it or just don’t care because tonight has been special.
1/ Straw Dogs
2/ Nobody’s Hero
3/ Roots, Radics, Rockers, Reggae
(Bunny Wailer cover)
4/ The Tower in London
5/ Just Fade Away
6/ Full Steam Backwards
7/ Doesn’t Make It Alright
(The Specials cover)
8/ Get a Life
9/ Listen to Bob Marley & The wailers cover
10/ My Dark Places
11/ Silver Lining
12/ Each Dollar a Bullet
14/ At the Edge
15/ Wasted Life
16/ Gotta Getaway
17/ Suspect Device
18/ Johnny Was
(Bob Marley & The Wailers cover)
19/ Alternative Ulster
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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