Stiff Little Fingers at The Junction, Cambridge 22/3/2012

My intermittent campaign to try to see all the post-punk bands I was too young to get to first time around continues: after bagging Magazine and Adam Ant last year I can now tick off fiery Belfast agitators Stiff Little Fingers. This group’s been gigging pretty regularly for over twenty years, after breaking up in 1982 and being on hiatus for a relatively short while, and by now they sure know what they’re doing in terms of putting on a tight yet passionately delivered show. Lead man Jake Burns boasts a considerably fuller figure than he did back in the day of independently released 45rpm singles and sessions for John Peel but he’s also a much better singer, his famously hoarse and raspy yelling having now matured into a confident bellow that could even be described as soulful. The band crack through the highlights of their back catalogue with a vigour that belies their combined age and even get away with throwing in some new material without alienating their audience, who in general display a touching loyalty by supplying backing chants where needed and even showing willing to form a middle-aged mosh. Burns is clearly as politically committed to worthy causes as ever and provides plenty of engaging between-song banter, putting the old songs in context, introducing the new ones and taking time out to definitively rebuff the BNP leader Nick Griffin’s co-opting of the band into his loathsome agenda and lament the absence of questioning and radical voices amongst current so-called alternative acts. All in all, pretty inspirational. The band was supported, appropriately enough, by Spear Of Destiny, another socially conscious outfit from way back when. I arrived a little too late to give them a fair hearing, but I felt I had to remark on Kirk Brandon’s close resemblance to Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter films.

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