Stiff Little Fingers' first Australian tour was announced back in February with little fanfare in any form of the media. However, having been around for 30 years, there was genuine anticipation from old-school punk fans around the country.
The first band up was from across the pond: Badtown from New Zealand. They played a ska/punk mix and while there wasn’t a great deal of people in the venue at the time, they played with a lot of energy and got a positive reaction from those who were watching. I’m not a big fan of ska but these guys played tight and their short set won me over and I hope to hear more from them in the coming years.
The next band up was a local act, Head Inc., and the venue was starting to fill up now. The band played a mixture of hard rock mixed with punk and a bit of metal. Unfortunately for the band, the sound was way off for their set; it was cranked up so loud it was hard to understand the vocals and the rest tended to blend into a fuzzy wall of sound. The vocalist was getting into poses on stage, such as a Jesus pose and what I can only describe as trying to start a lawn mower; this combined with screaming into the mic between songs seemed to irritate the crowd and I heard a few calls of “get off the stage!” and “you suck!”; others went to the front of the stage imitating the Jesus pose -- overall, he seemed to be trying too hard and it wasn’t long after that he was hit with a bottle, which brought about a rant about why people were drinking imported beer instead of Australian beers. After listening to a few of their songs online before the show I expected these guys to be half-decent but they disappointed live.
After Head Inc. finished, the venue was nearly full and there was a genuine buzz of anticipation as the crowd awaited SLF to take the stage -- the chant of “Fing-ers, Fing-ers, Fing-ers” started up more than a few times along with some applause. Soon after the song “Go for It” came over the speaker, the band proceeded to run out one at a time and busted straight into “Roots, Radicals, Rockers & Reggae.” Unlike Head Inc., the sound was right on the money as they continued through a varied set list comprised of songs mainly off their first three albums. I personally would’ve preferred two or three more recent songs, but what was played was excellent and being their first time on these shores no one has heard the older material live, so it’s understandable that the classics come first.
The band was energetic, especially bass player Ali McMordie who ran around the stage jumping and interacting with the crowd. Jake Burns has laid off eating gravel and sandpaper recently, singing more than barking the lyrics. He was able to belt out the songs really well, particularly the gem “Harp.” The backup vocals were spot on, especially on songs like “Doesn’t Make It Alright” and the highly entertaining “Barbed Wire Love.”
There was some enjoyable stage banter between songs and the band seemed to be having a good time; the crowd for SLF was one of the best that I have been a part of: no fights pr bottle throws and only one moron jumping on stage -- just a bunch of people young and old enjoying finally hearing some of their favourite tunes.
After an hour and a half and 18 songs, the band stated how much they had enjoyed their time in Australia and that they would be back; I know I won’t be the only one hoping they return.
- Roots, Radicals, Rockers & Reggae
- Just Fade Away
- No Surrender
- Silver Lining
- Doesn’t Make It Alright
- Nobody’s Hero
- Tin Soldiers
- Fly the Flag
- Love of the Common People
- Barbed Wire Love
- At the Edge
- Wasted Life
- Suspect Device
- Johnny Was
- Alternative Ulster