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STIFF LITTLE FINGERS + THEATRE OF HATE: Live in Nottingham

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS + THEATRE OF HATE – 21.03.17: Live at Rock City, Nottingham

One of the finest punk bands to grace this earth with support from one of the finest post punk bands at one of my favourite venues for live music – what could possibly go wrong? In a word, nothing. This was sheer entertainment from the first note to the last.

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Kirk Brandon

As Theatre of Hate were the first band I ever saw live, back in the early 80’s at Loughborough Town Hall, I’ve followed Kirk Brandon and his merry men for thirty odd years and possibly seen them live more than any other band. Last year I saw the current line-up headline their own mini tour and although they put on a show there wasn’t quite the spark to ignite the crowd. I couldn’t put my finger on why until I saw them take to the stage at the infamous Rock City last night. Theatre of Hate need a venue and Theatre of Hate need an audience, not a couple of hundred die hards but a thousand plus people who give as much back as the band give them.

This was classic Theatre of Hate and as soon as John ‘Boy’ Lennard played that high pitch intro to ‘Original Sin’ the crowd came alive and the band reciprocated. Stan Stammers on bass always puts so much effort into his performance whilst John ‘Boy’ seems to enjoy every last drop of the live performance. Adrian Portas keeps the guitar going strong and Danny Farrent is a superb drummer (love his interplay with Stan).

Then there’s the main man, Kirk Brandon, who lives for this. It was great to see him back on a larger stage so he could strut his stuff and interact with the crowd. At one stage, during ‘Legion’, I thought he was going to attempt a full on stage dive but instead he leaped to barriers and walked along the front as the crowd screamed the lyrics in return.

The set was perfect for the audience with the band selecting their more ‘punk’ numbers interspersed with a couple of tracks from their latest studio album ‘Kinshi’. ‘Black Irony’ was very well received as was ‘Ukraine Girl’, if only to rib Kirk and his story of meeting one such lady in a McDonalds only to be told she charged by the hour!

‘Propaganda’, the afore mentioned ‘Legion’ and ‘Do You Believe in the Westworld’ capped a fine performance and I honestly would have gone home happy at this stage of the evening. It was just great to see Theatre of Hate back where they belong.

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Stiff Little Fingers

Alas, I obviously hung around to see the band, who for forty years have given us some of the most commendable punk rock songs to grace our ears, the one and only Stiff Little Fingers.

Already whipped up into a frenzy, the crowd went ballistic as soon as front man Jake Burns struck up the first chord. By the time the third number came along (‘Nobody’s Hero’) it seemed everybody had completely lost it. It’s obvious Stiff Little Fingers are fine musicians but their tightness and togetherness really stood out. With Jake on vocals and guitar, Ian McCallum on lead guitar (and acoustic for a couple of numbers), Ali McMordie on bass and Steve Grantley on drums, Stiff Little Fingers owned the stage for almost two hours and every member gave every ounce possible.

As Jake explained, this is a tour to celebrate 40 years of SLF and there was a mixture of songs throughout the whole period. One such number, as Jake explained, is one of his favourite numbers ever by the band, ‘Safe As Houses’. It had been some years since I last heard it but was a fantastic addition to the live set – if only to give the crowd a respite and stand and watch the band actually play.

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Jake Burns

However, inevitably it was the favourites that pleased the most. ‘At the Edge’, ‘Barbed Wire Love’ and ‘Tin Soldiers’ bought the bloody house down. Jake talked between a number of songs, from dealing with depression to the barman in Boston, US, who asked if he would like to try a “Irish Bomb” drink upon recognising Jake’s accent. Jake was disgusted and instead said he’d pass on that & asked for a “9/11” instead – the barman was not impressed!

When ‘Wasted Life’ bled straight into ‘Suspect Device’ I think the whole crowd just accepted that there was nothing else to do but join in. Body’s, arms. legs flailed everywhere and this was now unrelenting stuff. Fortunately, the first encore was ‘Johnny Was’, in my opinion one of the best Stiff Little Fingers numbers ever written – eight minutes of brilliance before they left the stage once more.

But that wasn’t that. They reemerged for the final time and struck straight into my favourite SLF song, ‘Gotta Gettaway’ and even I lost had lost it by now. The obvious final song ‘Alternative Ulster’ almost took the roof off and capped off a brilliant night out.

As I said earlier, Rock City is a fantastic venue for live music and I have seen some of the best punk bands throughout the years there. Last night will certainly be right up there when I look back on those first 40 years of punk rock.

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