Spear Of Destiny / Stiff Little Fingers - The Forum, London
I last viewed punk legends Stiff Little Fingers live at Glasgow Apollo on March the 30th 1980. I don't know why I waited till the same date of the month 32 years later to see them again as I've always cherished their singles and appreciate the moments when they pop up out of the blue when shuffling my iphone, it's just that I've never made the effort to take in a live show in the decades that followed my one and only encounter with the band.
I did almost get around to seeing them last year as my interest in the group was at a high due to receiving Roland Link's impressive tome Kicking Up A Racket: The Story of Stiff Little Fingers 1977-1983 the previous Christmas. The book was a very informative read and had me dusting off my SLF discs to reacquaint myself with the numerous album tracks mentioned throughout its pages.
The other reason I was drawn to a live date at that time was due to the fact that Kirk Brandon's 80s survivors - Spear Of Destiny were supporting the Irish punkers. Spear have been performing live and releasing albums throughout the decades that have followed their initial success but they're most well known for the trio of albums they released from 1984 to 1987. I was a big fan of the band during those years, attending several Scottish shows and I still catch the odd SOD gig when I can.
Sadly Spear frontman Mr Brandon was taken seriously ill just before the 2011 tour was due to start so the band had to cancel their SLF support dates and I never got around to sorting out a ticket for the headline act. 2012 sees Kirk fighting fit, so the band have finally taken to the road with the Fingers, with London Forum probably the biggest date on the tour and I managed to pull my own finger out to finally view my second SLF show, turning up at the Forum early for a bit of Spear too!
As someone who has seen the band play their fair share of shitty dives over the last few years it was nice to see Kirk and his boys on a stage more suited to their talents and the audience was looking extremely healthy when they opened proceedings with 'Land Of Shame', with the crowd getting larger for each song, as they stumbled in from the pub next door.
Spear's shortish set was pulled from all stages of their career, with 'Undertow' from current album Omega Point rubbing shoulders with 1983 single 'The Wheel' and One Eyed Jacks opener 'Rainmaker' appearing next to 'Age Of Unreason' from 2005's Loadstone album.
Both single 'Never Take Me Alive' (Number 14 in the UK Singles Chart in 1987 pop pickers) and their cover of Joy Division's 'Transmission' (dedicated to Peter Hook) went down extremly well with the rowdy Forum audience but it was the final two songs of the night really cemented the fact that the band should be headlining large venues again.
World Service was Spear Of Destiny's biggest selling album and it seemed the collection's title track still held a place in many of the audience members hearts as the song's chorus created a huge singalong moment, with the band ceasing playing while Kirk conducted the crowd through its "I hear music" refrain, the music blasting in again for the remainder of the song, swiftly followed by blistering set closer 'Liberator', the band's finest hour and a track that still shows up regularly on 'Alternative 80's' compilations.
It looks to be a good year for Mr Brandon as in addition to the SLF tour a reformed Theatre Of Hate will also be playing a couple of shows, including a date at Islington Academy in May, where Kirk will be joined onstage for the first time in a good few years by his old TOH / SOD partner in crime - bass player Stan Stammers, resulting in gigs not to be missed if you're a fan from back in the day!
Stiff Little Fingers current line up features original members Jake Burns on lead vocals and guitar and Ali McMordie on bass joined by long time comrades Ian McCallum on guitar and Steve Grantley on drums.
The band opened their 35th anniversary gig with a fast and furious 'Wasted Life' and hardly paused for breath before bursting into 'Just Fade Away', proving they may be a few years older since the last time I saw them but they still can deliver songs with a ludicrous amount of energy.
SLF's set was peppered with a couple of tracks from 2003's Guitar And Drum album but most of the performance was pulled from the album's where the band made their name and a host of singles that displayed what a great run of seven inches SLF had from 'Suspect Device' to 'Silver Lining'.
The band's output was fairly relentless but Jake managed to get his breath back on a few occasions chatting with the audience between songs, including berating clueless BNP politician Nick Griffin for declaring himself a fan of the band in a recent TV interview, just before 'Fly The Flag' was played, stating 'Go back and read the fucking words, you moron!'.
He also spoke about how The Clash and especially Joe Strummer changed his outlook on life, with a passionate 'Strummerville' following, complete with audience roars of 'Clash Clash, Clash City Rockers' towards the end.
There were a couple of set highlights for me, with the early inclusion of 'At The Edge' blowing me away as it's my favourite SLF single but I believe first encore track 'Johnny Was' actually topped that. The Bob Marley cover has always been a stand out from the band's debut album Inflammable Material but the lengthy Forum rendition seemed to have more of a groove to it and just sounded stupendous.
The evening ended with a final searing two song salvo featuring singles 'Alternative Ulster' and 'Gotta Getaway' that saw the audience explode, with a few people coming over the barrier, with others just content to punch their fists in the air and bellow out the choruses.
I was really impressed by SLF's show. I know I say it a fair amount when I've not seen an act for a few years, but I'm sure it wont be another three decades before I see the band again!