Concorde 2, Brighton
This was my 6th Fingers gig in 39 years, the first being in Durham in ’79. We had a break until 2014, partly because of me not getting on with Bruce Foxton’s bassplaying with SLF, but since then they’ve been an annual requirement, providing a formula with wriggle room that’s never failed to hit the spot. That formula includes decently priced tickets – £20 tonight – and a quality support act; last year Theatre of Hate, this year Ruts DC, with the mighty Dave Ruffy drumming like a wise old man with the energy of a young ‘un.
SLF’s walk-on tune, as per, is the instrumental Go For It, from the 1981 album of the same name. It’s always bang on the money, a football chant-along of anticipation, and culminates with Jake Burns announcing ‘Good evening Brighton, it’s good to be back. We’re Stiff Little Fingers’ First minor tweak of the formula: there’s no “1-2-3-4!’ from Burns, rather, we’re led in by Steve Grantley’s drumming. They always play three songs without break at the top end, never the same three though but, and tonight it’s ‘Wait And See’, ‘Nobody’s Hero’ and ‘Gotta Getaway’. The latter, after its call and response intro kicks in with Burns’ trademark ‘Go on ya fuckers!’
Thereafter, we’re talking classics (Tin Soldiers, Barbed Wire Love, Just Fade Away, Roots, Radicals, Rockers & Reggae, Suspect Device, At The Edge, and obviously, like duh, Alternative Ulster to finish with) interspersed with deeper cuts (Safe As Houses, Is That What You Fought The War For, I Could Be Happy Yesterday), a more recently minted classic – My Dark Places from 2014’s album (that reached number one in the UK, yeah?) There’s even a new ‘un, Tilting At Windmills, written recently by US based Burns about the rise of Trump.
The chat between songs is a joy; JB clearly is more introvert than show-off, and that sense of vulnerability is a delight. The band’s tight as heck, more so than ever. Last year’s outdoor gig in Belfast was the biggest show they’ve headlined – they’re doing the same again this summer – they’re on a long old late-middle age roll. Ali McMordie on bass looks and sounds better than he did 40 years ago, and I’m saying is better suited to what the band do best than Foxton was.
My concern is that though his musicianship and voice are magnificent, 60 year old Burns’ health maybe isn’t great. He’s a big lad these days, and these shows (this is near the end of a tour that’s taken in New Zealand and Australia) are taxing affairs.
This is Brighton, and I imagine the demographic isn’t quite what you’d get at their spiritual home Glasgow Barrowlands. It’s a little like the football at the Amex Stadium: plenty of enthusiasm, but without the decades of organic growth that communities require. Having said that, there were plenty of instances of cidery farts from ageing men in leather jackets.
It made me think..
They’re my favourite live band, Stiff Little Fingers.