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Stiff Little Fingers at Northampton Roadmender - Live review

Belfast firebrands reclaim cutting edge

The first time I saw Stiff Little Fingers I was 15 – a cider-fuelled, life-changing experience. The last time, I was 30, newly married, in my first serious job, just about to have my first kid, and SLF’s songs of youthful rebellion didn’t resonate any more. I stood at the back with a pint (just one, I’m driving), arms folded and tutted: what good to me were these songs now?

What a difference a decade or two makes. Some people might say that SLF’s usefulness has long since gone – that songs about teenage angst and The Troubles have long lost their relevance. But some people should read the fucking newspapers a bit more. Brexit is taking a hammer to the UK (not before time, maybe), and a band with a set-list of songs about the big isms (unionism, nationalism, sectarianism, racism, self-determinism) is back on point. And they never sounded better, the classics – Alternative Ulster, Suspect Device et al – turning those old enough to know better into a sweaty pogoing mess, the newer songs more than good enough to stand alongside them.

They are classic (punk) rock to the core – The Clash via Thin Lizzy, with the explosive impact you’d expect of a band originally named Highway Star and inspired by Rory Gallagher. Jake Burns’s philosophy, meanwhile, mirrors that of Alex Harvey: don’t make any bullets, don’t buy any bullets, don’t shoot any bullets.

This is nothing to do with teenage angst. These are songs for life, songs that remind you who you are.