‘IT’S Friday night in Dublin and we are Stiff Little Finger’. The soft, anglicised, spoken voice of Belfast-born Jake Burns is a jarring contrast to the guttural, snarling lead vocalist.
When he sings you feel you better pay attention to what he is saying in case he looks around and turns his venom on you, yet his stage persona and banter with audience and fellow band members is amiable.
The difference between SLF and other punk/new age era bands which have reformed in recent years is that the Stiffs are still a full working band, recording new material and debuting new songs.
Burns and bass-player Ali McMordie are the only two original members – and McMordie only rejoined in 2006 after a 15-year sabbatical – but Friday night’s performance suggested a band of equals who bounce of each other and were clearly having a good time.
Burns introduced two new songs – a diatribe about former US president George Bush and the tendency of British tabloids to create hate figures and demonise them.
However, these were cushioned among a generous delving into the Stiff Little Fingers back catalogue, focusing for the most part on their first two overtly punk albums, but with helpings form their third and fourth more mature albums and tracks from their post reunification days.
“Inflammable material is planted in my head/It's a suspect device that's left 2,000 dead”
The words of ‘Suspect Device’ – a refutal of paramilitaries and state oppression in the north – may have dated in terms lyrical content since it was written in the late 1970s as has the reference to “the RUC dogs of oppression/are barking at out feet” in their best-known song ‘Alternative Ulster’, but the punk sentiment of refusing to be classified or limited by the society in which we live is still valid.
Lyrics aside both songs have stood the test of time purely in terms of their ability to get 600 people jump around a intimate little venue just around the corner from the GPO in O’Connell Street.
‘Wasted Life’, ‘Barbed Wire Love’, ‘Tin Soldiers’, ‘Nobody’s Heroes’ were all given work outs and – proof that Irish bands can play reggae – the Special’s cover ‘Doesn’t Make it Alright’ and the epic Rita Marley-written (originally sung by her husband Bob ) ‘Johnny Was’.
They were the soundtrack to many of our youths but this concert proved that Stiff Little Fingers are not just playing on past glories and can still deliver a quality set that confirms to their audience why they loved them in the first place and challenges them to move with them into new territory.