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Opinion

Stiff Little Fingers, Newcastle United and me

6 months ago
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Over the weekend of St Patrick’s night, rather than endure the long trip to the lovely coastal town of Bournemouth, I decided to tick an item on my ever expanding bucket list.

Now feel free to switch off here as I deliver a match report that is 90% non-football related.

I make no apologies for speaking about the other love of my life, Punk Rock legends, Stiff Little Fingers!

A bit of sub culture always mixes well with football.

I have followed the band closely, from the first time I heard their dynamic debut album Inflammable Material, to this present day where they are still belting out tunes old and new with power and passion to audiences old and young, who are happy to bounce about together.

I have seen SLF many times over the last 4 decades. I have great memories of Newcastle Mayfair, the Riverside, The Academy and places further afield, like Rock City in Nottingham and even some tardy hall in Middlesbrough.

However, I had never been to Barrowlands in Glasgow and over the last couple of decades it is now tradition that SLF play Barrowlands on St Patrick’s night. This time was different as they played two nights, two nights that were sold out very quickly indeed!

A bit about the band, they are fronted by legendary Belfast Singer songwriter Jake Burns, who also happens to be a huge fan of NUFC.

In fact Jake resided here for many years and could be seen regularly pre-match in Inventions (Crows Nest to you young uns) on match day,

Jake now lives in the states but never misses a live broadcast of a game no matter what time of day or night, and he regularly comments on the goings on at SJP.

I would say he holds Donald Trump in the same esteem as Mike Ashley such is his condemnation of the SD owner. A very approachable guy who writes songs from the heart!

The rest of the band is the brilliant Ali McMordie who plays bass and who was an original member and interacts effortlessly with the masses, Newcastle born Ian McCallum legendary guitarist and backing vocalist, whilst keeping the beat and making a lot of noise is drummer and all round nice guy Steve Grantley, all of whom have been integral to the success of the band for many many years, I have to say it is a very tight knit group who blast out powerful but meaning full songs.

None of your Simon Cowell manufactured pop is tolerated.

As I said, I have followed the band since 1978 and while there have been line up changes it is no disrespect to previous band members when I say this is the best there has been.

Travelling to Glasgow was a bit of a nightmare as rain, wind, sunshine and snow at one point all contrived to make it as difficult as possible to get to where we needed to be.

Glasgow, as most people will know, is one mighty fine city, very similar in many ways to Newcastle, however the area in and around Barrowlands is not the best, but there was a good atmosphere in the pubs close by, however the venue itself is perfect.

The atmosphere improved dramatically with news of a late Matt Richie equaliser at Bournemouth, plenty followers of NUFC had made the trip to Glasgow.

As it was my first visit I went in early, grabbed a couple of beers and went to watch the support, the support was none other than the brilliant Eddie and the Hot Rods, they played a short but powerful set that most people watched, often support acts are playing to half empty auditoriums.

However, not this time, belting out old tunes including their classic “Do anything you wanna do”, brilliant stuff.

A half hour break where the warm up tunes were perfectly chosen, seeing over 2200 fans heartily singing My Girl Lollipop was indeed a site to behold!

Lights dimmed and the tension grew as the customary Fingers entry anthem “Go for It” is played while the chants of “Fingers” becomes deafening…………. Before the band bounce onto stage as Jake gives a heartily “Good Evening Glasgow we are Stiff Little Fingers” and straight into a classic from 40 years ago…….crowd and band are all at one and this 55 year old is suddenly a teenager again and back in the Gallowgate End under the Scoreboard in the 80s.

The crowd are leaping about and the floor is moving, it really does spring up and down as most of the masses reconnect with their youth.

I could go through the set list but that would be unfair on those planning to see them this year given they have a heavy schedule the set could be the same, but suffice to say a mix of Old, not so old and new songs are played with enthusiasm in front of quite a frenzied crowd.

Stiff Little Fingers DO songs with meaning, they came out of Belfast in the most troubled of times bringing the kids together who could have been trying to kill each other in those dark days, brave lyrics then and in many ways they still are.

stiff little fingers

The time passes quickly and surprisingly I have survived another SLF gig without my heart giving up, highlights of the evening obviously include the classic Suspect Device but I hang my hat on newer songs as well, Guilty as sin tackles the issue of sexual abuse on children, Strummerville is obvious to those who know, My Dark Places deals with depression and it is a very emotive subject for Jake, 16 shots tackles the subject of the Police unmercifully shooting Laquan Macdonald in Chicago in 2014, these are powerful tunes with powerful lyrics and sang with meaning

Of course we end with the SLF classic Alternative Ulster, where the message in 1978 is as strong now as it was then, Grab it and change it, It’s yours! This song obviously sends the crowd into one final chaotic frenzy!

Amazing night, one of the best, it’s what I say after every gig, but this time was special, very special and will live long in the memory until we do it all again…..tomorrow night (I did say it was 2 nights)

I am booked up to see them again in Belfast in August and will pick up another gig or two before them, my team may be NUFC but my band is definitely SLF.

As I say, apologies if you don’t like music on a football site but I know a lot of NUFC fans also follow the band!

Since I wrote this it would be churlish not to mention that SLF just won “Best Live Band” award at the 2019 Vive Le Rock awards – congratulations guys if you happen to be reading!

Belfast – See you up there!

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