Stiif Little Fingers at The Academy on 13 March 2014

Stiff Little Fingers at The Academy, Dublin, 13th March 2014

Veteran punks Stiff Little Fingers, with a new album on the horizon, performed at The Academy Thursday night. Veterans they may be, but the full house that greets the band says much about their reputation. Checkpoint open the show, and while their tunes growl and snarl with punk-ish intensity, the bandmembers hardly do. Standing motionless for most of their performance, their lack of presence is emphasised when singer Sean Dunne, the only one who speaks, spends five minutes fixing a technical issue, with only a few lonely bass notes breaking the awkward silence. To top if off, Dunne goes through a rather cliched round of names, something that is totally needless for a support band. We don’t need to know who you are, especially after such a forgettable performance.

The SLF set begins in a blaze of noise and energy, but the noise is just too dense and messy to make a positive impact. The guitars clamour horribly and are indistinguishable from the vocals and each other. The band takes a pause after the third track, and Jake Burns begins the trend of explaining the origins of each song, a trick that not only makes every tune more engaging, but also allows the sound engineers to fix whatever problems are ruining the show.

From here on out SLF are on top form, providing a nice mix of old and new tunes, with My Dark Places probably the best from the upcoming album. The band’s sound has evolved somewhat from their original template, being a bit fuller now; more Green Day than Ramones. The intensity and passion is still there, and Throwing It All Away proves that the band can still belt out a catchy tune.

It’s the songs from ‘Inflammable Material’ that stand out the most though, particularly Barbed Wire Love, with its spiky riffs and fast-paced energy showing just how well the track has aged. The same can be said for Suspect Device and Johnny Was, the latter of which is drawn out into an epic ten minute noise frenzy.

Alternative Ulster wraps up the show, burning with the energy and fury that inspired the song over thirty years ago. That energy can be felt just as strongly today as it was back then, even if the subject matter isn’t quite as relevant anymore. Initial sound difficulties aside, Stiff Little Fingers prove tonight that not only has their old material aged fantastically well, but that their new material retains that high standard.

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Photos: Dave Kelly