Punk pioneers Stiff Little Fingers have been putting the ‘fast’ in Belfast since 1977.

Stiff Little Fingers were formed during the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland and took their place alongside the likes of The Clash and Sex Pistols during the punk rock renaissance of the seventies. After the success of the band’s critically acclaimed 2014 album, No Going Back, they take to the road once more.

Ricky Warwick and the Fighting Hearts get the show off to a flying start. Warwick explains that after seeing the Stiff Little Fingers at Ulster Hall in Belfast some years ago, he bought his first guitar. His trusty Les Paul is emblazoned with the moniker Belfast too.

Warwick is joined by fellow Black Star Riders bandmate and bass player, Robbie Crane. Of course, there’s room for the odd BSR track in the set with the euphoric “Finest Hour” getting an airing. The pair is joined by Gary Sullivan on drums and ex-Mission guitarist Mark Gemini Thwaite.

Tracks from the Fighting Hearts latest double album package, When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang Blues) / Hearts On Trees, really shine. These include the hard rocking “The Road To Damascus Street”,”The Arms of Belfast Town,” and the incredibly catchy “Celebrating Sinking”, co-written by Andy Cairns from Therapy. Warwick and company also deliver an excellent cover of The Clash’s “Tommy Gun” before closing out their set with the classic Almighty number, “Jonestown Mind.”

It’s the day after Stiff Little Finger’s 25th anniversary St Patrick’s Day show in Glasgow. The band recorded their annual bash at the Barrowlands for a future CD/DVD release, as part of a Pledgemusic campaign. It’s Friday night in Newcastle, and the Geordie crowd are in a jovial mood. As the band’s intro tape rolls the fans instantly start pogoing, the vibrations of the floor bouncing can be felt throughout the building.

Stiff Little Fingers take to the stage with their no messing attitude, and they blast through a career-spanning set. They get the show underway with the likes of “Wasted Life,”,”Roots Radicals Rockers and Reggae,” and “Guitar & Drum.” The band have inspired many of their contemporary counterparts with the likes of Bad Religion citing them as a major influence, and it’s easy to understand why.

One song that stands out is “Barbed Wire Love” for which frontman Jake Burns passes comment about it being the only love song in their repertoire. The band celebrate the life of their friend John Bradbury who sadly died recently, with a great cover of “Doesn’t Make It Alright” by The Specials. They also tip their hat to the late great Joe Strummer from The Clash, who Burns states influenced both his songwriting and how he conducts himself, with the superb “Strummerville.”

Burns reminisces about a night out in London with Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy, which resulted in him writing “When We Were Young.” The band closed out their main set with a triple whammy of fan favorites in the shape of “Fly The Flag”,”Tin Soldiers,” and “Suspect Device.” However, they are not done yet, with the roars from the audience so loud you would think you were in Wembley Stadium rather than the O2 Academy in Newcastle. The band bring the evening to a close with the classic “Alternative Ulster.”

In the ten years or so that this venue has been standing, we’ve never seen a crowd respond to any band quite like this. With a career spanning almost forty years Stiff Little Fingers are still going strong and long may they continue.

Stiff Little Fingers
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Ricky Warwick and The Fighting Hearts 
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About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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