Stiff Little Fingers at the Forum
The punk rockers from Belfast and their cult following roar into The Forum in a whirlwind of red, black, skulls, flames and energy. A mosh pit forms in anticipation before the band take to the stage. Formed in 1977, the crowd have followed Stiff Little Fingers with ardour for over 30 years. There is an air of familiarity in the place: these people know each other and have been bonded by their shared passion. The venue is a swarming mass of bodies and mohicans.
Jake Burns, the lead singer and only member who has remained a permanent fixture in the band throughout its many transmutations, pauses between songs to make sure that his fans understand the political and personal meanings he is trying to convey. We learn about their newer songs: Trails of Tears is concerned with immigration and police checks, the line “Let me see your papers” appears to make reference to Nazi Germany.
He certainly doesn’t shy away from controversial political views with his song writing; with Liars’ Club he tells us he was inspired by listening to Bush and Blair discussing the Iraq war. These direct announcements to the audience show that the band are still motivated by the same contentious subjects that inspired their inception, their original songs being penned about the Troubles in Northern Ireland (Suspect Device and Barbed Wire Love). The performance remains fast-paced and loud, yet there are moments of stark revelation. In My Dark Places Burns refers to his personal depression and the crowd lift their arms in understanding as he speaks of a time when all he wanted to do was cry.
The Up a Gear tour is perfectly named. Stiff Little fingers have not lost the power to stir fans into a frenzy. Their cover of The Ruts’ Staring at the Rude Boys has everyone chanting “We’ll never surrender!” For a band that has successfully managed to stay true to their punk roots one hopes that they never do surrender. There is something awe-inspiring about watching a crowd of people really losing themselves in the music, with no proliferation of mobile phones being held aloft to capture every minute. The people here have come to be caught up in the music, and watching their reaction to the encore Alternative Ulster makes the room ring with a sense of nostalgia.
Photos: Dimitris Amvrazis
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Watch Stiff Little Fingers performing Alternative Ulster here: