Stiff Little Fingers at O2 Bournemouth Academy 24.3.22 with support from The Professionals and TV Smith
A Thursday night in Boscombe for another band of my youth. I saw them first in 1981, twice on their Go For It tour, in Guildford and at the London Rainbow. I still have part of an old ad I scrawled on and put in a scrap book.
Looking back at my old vinyl I only had the live Hanx! album and one EP. I love that album and the between song passionate comments. Everyone else played the SLF studio albums though…..John Peel Festive 50s and all that on the radio. I stocked up later with CDs, including the later Hope Street, with free live album and Guitar and Drum.
Next it was Birmingham Odeon in 1982 and I kept a published write up of that. Bet the author didn’t see them still on stage 40 years on. I remember the Odeon bouncers. Enthusiastic custodians of order. I remember holding on to the legs of a fan, with others, who’d been standing on a seat and was being ejected as the bouncers dragged his arms. He must have been a few inches taller when he got outside.
SLF took a break from 1982 to 87 and in that period I saw Jake Burns and the Big Wheel, around 1983, in Birmingham’s Tin Can Club – a glamour club most of the week with a heart shaped stage opening. I didn’t catch them again until 1999 down in London at The Kentish Town Forum, then at tonight’s venue in March 2010 and once more with the larger Jake Burns supporting Green Day in Hyde Park 2017. Then there was a Dead Men Walking ensemble with Jake Burns, Kirk Brandon and a few Ruts in Winchester in March 2016.
It’s always been about the old songs…those first three studio albums.
As I wander into this familiar haunt – venue blog here – old Adverts frontman TV Smith is playing solo. Many still to come in yet and it’s easy to get to the front and lean on the rail to the left where I stay for the support bands. Good view. TV Smith – still looking enthusiastically punky – finishes with the Adverts big one, Looking Through Gary Gilmore’s Eyes.
Next up it’s The Professionals, with Tom Spencer on lead vocals and guitar and ex-Pistol drummer Paul Cook – something Tom reminds people of a few times and turns around to point in case anyone is missing this fact.
Pretty good support to have on the tour. The crowd is still coming in and Tom has a bit of an effort to work up some interest but the better known songs help – Silly Thing; Kick Down the Doors; 1-2-3 and one the Pistols covered (I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone.
Stiff Little Fingers tonight
The build up and walk on music goes on for quite a while – where are they? A selection of old TV themes: Match of the Day; Captain Pugwash; It Ain’t Half Hot Mum; The Likely Lads and loads more. Frontman Jake Burns has had a sore throat and the band cancelled the last two gigs so a relief to see them appear at last.
It’s a classic SLF set – a crowd pleaser and it’s maybe easier for SLF as the first few albums are so central to what they are. Ten of the 19 songs in this set are from the first two albums, starting off with Suspect Device, At the Edge and Fly the Flag – a test for any throat.
Jake gives a short historical intro to most songs and there’s of course a lot about their growing up. Jake did say at one point, I think before introducing The Last Protest Song, that he hadn’t spent Lockdown just shaving his head and eating pies – I can’t say his frame didn’t startle me at first.
That ripping guitar and rasping voice is still a winner…it gets me still. Before playing When We Were Young Jake mentions what a welcoming friendly guy Phil Lynott was when they first started coming to London to play and he dedicates the song to him.
After Barbed Wire Love, which the other original band member Ali McMordie introduces in the context of the Belfast troubles, it’s quite an emotional Strummerville as a tribute to the late Joe Strummer of The Clash.
The mosh pit is again in full swing as we get to the later stages. There’s a selection of ages in there – hope for youth is not lost 😉. Also there is a variety of old blokes on their own who are quite clearly loving having a night out of nostalgia – yes and I’m one of them.
Wasted Life and Gotta Getaway run us up to the end of the main set – Wasted Life has always been a favourite of mine. This is really very nostalgic. I hope this isn’t the last time… emotion’s rising, thinking of the Covid break and threat of nuclear war. Jake thanks everyone for keeping hold of their tickets for two years.
The encore is two magnificent anthems: Tin Soldiers and inevitably Alternative Ulster, a song that sums up SLF. No surprises here. SLF always hit the nail. “Hanx!” to coin a Jake phrase.