Stiff Little Fingers – The Damned – The Buzzcocks – The Defects – Live Review – Custom House Square – Belfast
Custom House Square hosted a Punk extravaganza this evening, on a dark, damp evening in Belfast. A hefty line up with local hero Terry Hooley as MC and including Belfast band The Defects, The Buzzcocks, The Damned and of course the infamous Stiff Little Fingers wrapping things up it was going to be one hell of a night!
The Defects kicked things off early evening, a modest crowd was in attendance as they took to the stage, and opening with a classis track ‘Hill St’ they kicked off their set with gusto. Followed up with ‘Traffic Island Castaway’ a song about the singer of The Ruts, which got a great reception from the crowd. Vocalist Ian Buck Murdock exclaimed “Fuckin hell where would you get it?”
As he tossed t-shirts out into the crowd he warned they were “Big bastard size” which didn’t seem to phase any of the onlookers, the flew through their set of songs about Belfast landmarks (the subway and sniffing glue) to songs of police brutality. All in a days work for a Belfast Punk band.
The Buzzcocks were up next; they just laid into their set and didn’t take their foot off the gas throughout. A fast paced and highly energetic set had the crowd up for it and singing along from the off. There was great support for The Buzzcocks with plenty of t-shirts visible throughout the audience, with old boys taking selfies against the backdrop of the band playing live it almost brought a tear to the eye. They played a hefty selection of their classics that had the crowd bouncing with joy; beer flying in the air and great vocal support meant The Buzzcocks hit the spot.
The penultimate band The Damned hit the stage, immediately it felt like the bar had been raised. With a bang they took charge and set the stage alight with a polished and professional performance, strong vocal harmonies and stage presence meant The Damned demanded your attention regardless of the pissing rain. A stunning light show was the perfect backdrop against a collection of classic Punk-Rock songs that the crowd got into warmed them right up for a killer finale.
A sea of bodies from front to rear in Custom House Square looked like a million dollars as the light reflected off each and everyone, vocalist Dave Vanian took great pleasure telling the crowd that they outsold PIL (who played Bangor on the same evening) five to one, which was greeted by a large cheer. “Stick that up your arse John Lydon king of Punk”
But tonight was really about one thing, the return of their prodigal sons Stiff Little Fingers. Formed back in the late 70’s in the height of the troubles in N.Ireland they represented a glimmer of hope to a dejected youth of the day, and by the look of the crowd a dejected youth all grown up!
The event itself was rich in musical history but observing the crowd it seemed to be more of a social occasion as I watched old friends embrace one another every time I turned my head. It was a community reunited once again and the music simply a backdrop to a place in time when the music was everything. It was great to see families together, parents and their kids sharing in this experience together as Stiff Little Fingers took to the stage.
An excruciatingly long intro didn’t deter from the evenings fun as the lads banged out classis track after track, vocalist Jake Burns apologising for previously “Yacking too much” the last time they played, so tonight they would keep the talking to a minimum and let the music do the talking, and that’s exactly what they did. An arsenal of tracks from over four decades bombarded the Belfast crowd who were in fine voice and reciprocated in kind.
A passionate band matched only by a passionate crowd came together on a dark damp evening in Belfast to embrace dare I say it, An Alternative Ulster?
Photography: Darren McVeigh