Live review: Stiff Little Fingers at O2 Academy Bristol – 9th March 2023

Stiff Little Fingers were formed in Belfast in 1977 at the height of all the trouble and this is where a lot of their song writing comes from. They are a hard rocking punk band that have been on the gig circuit for some 40 years. They came back at the O2 Academy in Bristol, a place they have played many times over the years.

The evenings opening act was Slim Jim Phantom Trio, which consists of the Stray Cats drummer and his wife Jennie Vee (Eagles of Death metal) playing bass and also Rex Elle on guitar. It seems an odd choice of opening act but their is a good sized crowd to witness a 40 minute set and they appear to be really enjoying it. We are treated to hits “Rumble in Brighton” which is from Stray Cats debut album and a special version of The Damned’s “Black Rose”

The time has come for tonights main act, and they come onto the stage to their usual intro, which sees the hyped audience joining in Straw Dogs to start the set off. It’s raw , before being closely followed by Nobody’s Hero’s which the crowd enjoy as they sing along in fine voices. Next is Roots Radicals Rockers and Reggae, a cover originally by Bunny Wailer but Fingers have made it their own and is a firm favourite in the set.

We get a nice surprise in the form of a new track A Tower in London which is about the Grenfell fire, and a tribute to those lost, followed by Doesn’t Make it Alright, dedicated to Terry Hall, frontman of The Specials. The setlist may be missing some old favourites tonight, Tin Soldiers and Fly the Flag to name a couple, but Heading into what we think is the home straight At the Edge, Wasted Life, Gotta Getaway, and Suspect Device hit us hard with a wall of noise and singing from the crowd, all solid songs from the early days. With the snappy sound of military style drums we know it’s time for Johnny Was which hits us hard.

The set finishes with Alternative Ulster an absolute classic and its sung with real passion. Fingers have said they will be cutting back on future tours and I am think this must be due to the fact they are all in their early 60’s, so we can forgive them for wanting to take it easy, but tonight we have been thoroughly entertained.

Words and photos by Martin Smith, no use without permission

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