The last time I saw Ricky Warwick was when Black Star Riders supported Def Leppard & Whitesnake in December 2015.
He was a great frontman then, and brought the same required elements this evening, including BSR bassist Robbie Crane as part of his band The Fighting Hearts.
The majority of the crowd didn’t know the songs, and even seemed slightly apprehensive at the start, but were soon won over with the superlative Rock and Celtic Punk tunes.
The highlight for me was hearing Finest Hour by Black Star Riders again – can’t help loving that band!
It was a pleasure to see these guys on a more accessible stage, and I reckon they definitely procured a few new fans tonight!
Perfectly coiffed Mohicans and checked trouser wearing men who I’m pretty sure used to have Mohicans, teenagers with their dads, Goths, bearded Vikings, and couples who have grown together with the music… that was the makeup of tonight’s crowd. An eclectic mix indeed!
It’s not about the look, though… it’s about the passion, the fire, the energy, the strong statements about Irish politics and other pertinent subjects, the lack of fear and the mutual fondness and respect. Every single person was there for one reason alone… Belfast’s own Stiff Little Fingers.
The moment Jake, Ali, Steve and Ian strode onto the stage, their audience erupted with fierce joy, showing their loyalty and adoration for this band who have been doing their thing since 1977. Incidentally, that’s before I was born, and there were people there tonight who were a lot younger than me – nice to know the older Punk bands are still corralling a new following!
Tonight’s gig was like a short story, each song a chapter depicting the world of Stiff Little Fingers. There was much hilarity when Burns lamented about arriving over here too late for the Brit Awards. Jake pointed out that Adele’s mantelpiece must be huge, then went on to say that they don’t believe in awards… they “believe in the power of guitar and drums”! This prompted a rip-roaring cheer and a good old pogoing session!
Favourites “Nobody’s Hero” and “Barbed Wire Love” went down a storm – it was truly wonderful watching the loving crowd sing and wave along to these iconic tunes. In fact, the audience was in my opinion better than a choir – I haven’t heard a group of people sing so loud without microphones since I saw The Wailers!
I was mesmerised tonight – there were guitar solos to die for, the bass repeatedly sent shivers down my spine (McMordie’s hands were so blurred that I thought I could see a mirage!), the lean, vigorous drums were relentless and Jake’s affable nature, humorous and entertaining anecdotes and formidable stage presence ensured the careening music, sturdy vocals and profound lyrics meshed together to form the perfect tale.
I can’t review this evening without mentioning Jake’s battle with Depression. He wrote the song “No Going Back” as a self-help guide, and had to be talked into recording it by Ali. He’s thankful for that, especially as he’s had countless people express their gratitude for putting their feelings into words. I can personally vouch for the fact that “The first step to getting better is talking about it”, and must admit to feeling a little emotional, as at that moment in time everyone there was reconciled to supporting those with mental health issues. I therefore extend my own appreciation to Burns for bravely wearing his heart on his sleeve.
Just as I thought the pace was about to wane, the energy turned up a notch with “Tin Soldier” and “Suspect Device” (which has become a favourite of mine, largely thanks to my other half’s band The Expletives selecting the song for their set – I’m confident that Jake would agree they do a grand job!)
Stiff Little Fingers returned for a two song encore, and with a particularly feisty rendition of “Alternative Ulster”, the book was closed on the evening’s narrative.
I left with an overriding feeling that Punk most definitely hasn’t gone away – both this band and their music consistently stand the test of time in their collective rally against injustice, and we are with them all the way.