Stiff Little Fingers / Eddie & The Hotrods

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Stiff Little Fingers / Eddie & The Hotrods - O2 Academy, Bristol (UK) - 10 March 2019

Although not quite the Glasgow Barrowlands, Bristol has been a home from home for Stiff Little Fingers for a long time now. As we arrived it was unclear whether it was a sold-out gig as usual but there was a very healthy number inside as support act Eddie & The Hot Rods took the stage. I'm not familiar with them at all, and figured from their name they're a Rockabilly type band, so it was a great surprise when it's apparent they rock like bastards from the off. Originally known as The Rods (there is no Eddie), they've been knocking around for over fourty years now in various guises, with only frontman Barrie Masters a constant presence. What we got was short, sharp bursts of frenetic Punk 'n' Roll, aided by some excellent guitar solos from Richard Holgarth and a charismatic performance from Masters. Their original material is catchy and loud, and as the crowd got bigger the noise got louder. A cover of The Who's 'The Kids Are Alright' went down well, as did The Rods' 1977 hit 'Do Anything You Wanna Do'. The set was rounded off with a manic, entertaining cover of Van Morrison's 'Gloria' that brought the house down and rightly so. This was their last proper tour, we were told, but if you see them on the bill at a festival somewhere make sure you check them out.

There was a sizeable break between bands, but by the time the lights dimmed and 'Go For It' thundered through the speakers the place was rammed, with fans shouting out "Woah woah woah" at the appropriate moments. Many bands like to think they have an "army" of fans, but one look around confirmed that this lot of old (and young) punks would eat Kiss and their army for breakfast. As the old quote goes, "I don't know about the enemy, but they scare the hell out of me".



With no preamble, the band launched into a three-pronged attack consisting of older classics 'Law & Order', 'At The Edge' and 'Suspect Device', placating the older fans nicely. At this point Burns finally had a chat, dedicating 'Guitar & Drum' to Louis Walsh and Simon Cowell, who are "still a couple of fucking gobshites". 'Strummerville' had everyone singing "Clash city rockers" at the end, and it was followed by the welcome appearance of a new track! 'Sixteen Shots' is a bleak tale (like many Fingers tracks) about the police murdering kids! Subtle it is not, but by crikey it's a powerful song that bodes extremely well for the album I hope will be coming soon.

We were promised a setlist that's "a little off the beaten track" by Jake, and he didn't disappoint. 'Silver Lining', 'Harp', Wasted Life' and 'State Of Emergency' proved welcome, and many were introduced with explanations of the stories behind them; a grim experience when you lay it out at face value, with suicide, depression, child abuse, racism and murder getting a look in! It's this powerful subject matter that still rises Stiff Little Fingers above much of their contemporaries, and Burns didn't hold back in his criticism of the rich, powerful wankers that run our society.

The encore brought the welcome inclusion of the anthem to alcohol 'Drinkin' Again' from Burns' 2006 solo album, and the band finished off in the expected way with old-school classics 'Tin Soldiers' and 'Alternative Ulster'. It was hot, sweaty and triumphant at the end, the capacity crowd shuffling out with smiles everywhere. My usual gripes concern the ignoring of the 'Hope Street' album and the lack of 'Each Dollar A Bullet', but even for a miserable bugger like me it's hard to really find fault with such a tour de force performance.

Alan Holloway

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