Stiff Little Fingers are back once again at The O2 in Bristol on their annual jaunt around the UK, this time with special guests Slim Jim Phantom Trio on support. This is their Everyone IS Someone tour.
With many of our fingers also stiff from the relentless English chill, everyone shuffles in, eager to catch a glimpse of the defiant rule-breaking quadsome.
But first up, it’s the legendary Slim Jim Phantom and his Trio, who make their way onto the stage. Slim Jim, also drummer of the Stray Cats, rocks a blue bandana and engages the audience with his fun outgoing personality before diving straight into his legendary neo-rockabilly sound. The female guitarist fully utilises her chonky top string which doubles up the power of the bass. She also rocks some very good colourful guitar solos which pad out the sound very well.
James McDonnell stands, triangulating on a three-piece drum kit which is made up of just a couple of cymbals and a single snare drum. We’ll bet that made set-up and soundcheck a hell of a lot easier! Halfway through the set the female singer and guitarist have an axe face-off. There are several bluesy numbers throughout the set, but the spirit of punk is still very much present. The crowd responds very well to this feel-good trio.
The set comes to an end and the audience chants fervently as Stiff Little Fingers pick up their musical instruments once again to start their first gig of the tour. You’d think that after nearly 50 years in the punk business they might have engaged the breaks by now. Not this band!
They kick off with ‘Straw Dogs’ after bassist Ali McMordie flips us the middle finger (Rather fitting, given the band’s name). A fruitful guitar solo comes in at the start of ‘Roots, Radicals, Rockers and Reggae’ and despite a somewhat reserved British audience, this little number gets everybody playfully dancing along. The rockabilly tones in some of these songs make it clear to see why SLF asked Slim Jim and his trio to open for them.
Halfway through their set, Jake Burns takes an unexpected turn to talk about depression, and its often silent impact on those around us. He strongly urges anyone in the audience going through depression to speak out and talk to family and friends, an important part of recovery since depression can be so isolating. This smoothly leads into ‘My Dark Places’, a song about depression. Following this, the band play some of their slower, folk-like songs, revealing more of their rustic Irish roots.
A song that really stood out for us during the set was ‘Nobody’s Hero’. ‘Be what you are!’ The longest standing member Jake Burns yells over and over. It’s a song about not being afraid to be your unique self, to be different. This song really sums up what Stiff Little Fingers are all about too – a band not afraid to break the mould and be unashamedly themselves.
So, that’s one gig down for Stiff Little Fingers with twelve more to go as they make their way to Birmingham from Bristol. We secretly hope to see them make an eleventh album, since their last one was released all the way back in 2014. We will be keeping our stiff little fingers and toes crossed!
Review: Jasmine Lamport
Photography: Emma Painter // Pacific Curd Photography
Jake Burns – lead vocals, guitar
Ali McMordie – bass
Ian McCallum – guitar
Steve Grantley – drums