Barrowland Ballroom Reviews

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Stiff Little Fingers

17 March 1998

We (my wife and I) arrived by car next to the Barrowlands to be greeted by two guys spilling out of a pub fighting each other, so I suspected that we were in for a wild time at the gig. We were not to be disappointed.

After sinking a couple of Newcastle Brown Ales and buying the gorgeous black T-shirt with the gold harp on the front of it, we toddled into the hall, having missed the Red Eyes (which was a shame because I've heard they're pretty good). Eventually, at 9:30, the lights went down and the old familiar drum beat started and just about everybody started bouncing up and down singing "da da da daddlee da, da da da daddlee da ra". I felt the goose pimples rippling through the old body knowing it was only a couple of minutes before the place would be going mental. Meanwhile I said to my wife "Right, I bet the first song is 'I Could Be Happy Yesterday'" The band came on and, sure enough, they ripped straight into that very song, and did it superbly well. The Mrs thought I was a genius when I bet her they would do 'Silver Lining' next and, sure enough, they did. What I didn't tell her was that I had read Jez Lester's review from the Leeds Irish Centre gig before we came to the Barrowlands.

They actually played exactly the same set as they had at Leeds, including the 2 encores, the last song of which was introduced as a birthday dedication. Jake announced whose birthday it was - "This song has just celebrated its 20th birthday" - and did a rip-roarer of a version of 'Suspect Device' to send the crowd home well and truly satisfied. Although they played the same set as at Leeds, they played with a true passion unequalled by any band I've ever seen. 'Roaring Boys' was magnificently done, with Ian playing a great harmony on the mouth organ and Jake's superb Irish soloing on the guitar. All the old favourites were played - 'Tin Soldiers', 'Fly The Flag', 'Alternative Ulster', 'Johnny Was', etc, and it was great to hear, for the first time (well, my first time at least), a great rendition of 'Bits Of Kids'. The oldies were complemented beautifully by a mixture of numbers from Get A Life and Tinderbox, most notably 'Harp' (what a fabulous song this is !), 'What If I Want More', 'Roaring Boys' (both parts) and 'You Can Move Mountains' which Ian sang to give Jake's voice a break.

Because they have such a big repertoire of songs now, they obviously couldn't play everything, and I was slightly miffed not to hear 'Each Dollar A Bullet', 'Safe As Houses', 'Beirut Moon', 'No Surrender', 'Nobody's Hero' or 'Doesn't Make It Alright'. The whole gig was played very upbeat compared to how I've seen them play in the past and Jake in particular was sweating his cobs off. Of course the crowd responded well by jumping around like half-wits and throwing loads of beer over each other. I was well battered and bruised the next day - just what the doctor ordered. The only disappointing thing was the sound system. It was pretty distorted at times and made Jake sound as if he had swallowed a cheese grater when he was singing really high notes. This is not to take anything away from him as it was not his problem.

Lastly, to anybody out there who has not done so yet -- buy Get A Life and Tinderbox now -- they are absolutely fabulous albums and will provide you with years and years of enjoyment from the greatest band on earth. Here's to next year's St. Patrick's day bash !

 This Review by Gordon Johnston was Originally on the Stiff Little Fingers Website


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