The Ironworks, Inverness
Sunday, March 18
Stiff Little Fingers: ****
Ruts DC: ****
Hearing the ragged riffs of Stiff Little Fingers blasting out of Academy Street has pretty much become a signifier for Inverness that spring has officially sprung.
This gig was the third March in a row that the Irish punk legends had played the Inverness music venue, and on a night like this, it’s easy to see why they keep coming back – the band offered up a reliably sparky and energetic set to a pogoing half-drunk crowd who knew just what they were getting into.
It helped that support act Ruts DC – punk legends in their own right – provided such a stellar kick off for events, as the trio offered up a dynamic, tight 45 minutes of snarling, tightly-coiled rock.
Their reggae-infused numbers such as Mighty Soldier sat comfortably besides the thick, menacing palm-muted guitar of songs like In A Rut and the explosive noise of Staring at the Rude Boys – with the Ironworks screaming every “Never surrender” furiously back at the band as if they were standing at the top of a barricade.
Ruts DC were game to match that energy, despite frontman Segs’ niggling (and unnoticeably) sore vocal chords. By the end of their set, it was a wonder that the crowd weren’t sharing his pain as they shouted the house down.
Yet any worry that they may have worn themselves out were retired as Stiff Little Fingers announced themselves – the band’s instrumental track Go For It blaring from the speakers as the band made their way out to the sound of rampant cheers.
“Good evening Inverness – we’re Stiff Little Fingers,” frontman Jake Burns says softly, before the band tear into Wait and See with a spark that belies the song’s 38 years of age.
The thought occurs throughout this set, one that features deeper cuts than usual – songs such as Can’t Believe in You from 1994’s Get A Life and (I Could Be) Happy Yesterday from 1997’s Tinderbox crop up alongside the expected belters from their earlier LPs – that for a band who have graced the Ironworks three years in a row, they don’t show any signs of fatigue. This is a band who still seem to give a damn.
There is an element of comfort here too, as Jake leads the crowd through stories about some of the songs with an easy air of mild self-deprication – joking about how Safe as Houses was only added to the setlist again recently after years of being in too high a key, and happily admitting Now Then... was their Marmite record.
The crowd weren’t exactly enthralled by these stories – seeing them as opportunities for smoke breaks or moments to grab a quick conversation. But they were enthralled by the songs – each opening chord prompting a cheer and another mad pogoing session at the front.
It was rollocking fun, basically – one that snapped and fizzed and sparked with energy. It all snapped together perfectly with main set closer Suspect Device – as electrifying live today as it would have been when Inflammable Materials was first released nearly 40 years ago, the crowd roaring and bouncing and losing themselves in the song.
And by the time the night had properly finished – the explosive energy of final song Alternative Ulster refusing to dissipate from the room – Stiff Little Fingers had left an Ironworks crowd sweaty, dazed, and delighted.
Same time next year?
What did you think? Comment below or tweet Kyle: @spp_kwalker