Irish punk legends Stiff Little Fingers started their fall American tour at the Paradise – a Boston club they haven’t played since their first Stateside trip, 21 years ago.
Some of the NFL’s New England Patriots made the Paradise notorious a few years back when they stage-dived onto regular-size people at an Everclear concert. It’s understandable how a brutal, high-octane band like Everclear can whip anyone into a stage-diving frenzy; nonetheless the negative attention led authorities to close the Paradise for code violations.Now back in business, the Paradise looks exactly like it did before the closing, with its polished, Euro-hip decor. The joint may host techno dancing much of the time, but it can be a great venue for infrequent big punk shows. The room is fairly small and shallow, with its wide stage looming nearby wherever you stand, creating anintimate atmosphere. Tonight it was sold out. Younger scenesters and fans filled the floor, and the old fogies milled up on the balcony.
Lost City Angels were a perfect choice to open. The talented five-piece band of punks play upbeat, melodic hard rock songs on the long side with tight arrangements and cool dynamics. A lot of the kids up front sang and shouted along as the singer, a natural-born performer, and the harmonizing bassist belted out their original anthems. The crowd was suitably warmed up when LCA finished.
On a Celtic punk note, the sound guy played the Tossers, among other music, over the P.A. during the agonizingly long set change.
Finally, everybody’s favorite ‘80s-Irish-mulleted little guys took the stage in matching “Stiff Little Fingers” soccer jerseys with their respective last names stitched on the backs. The crowd went nuts to a few old hits like “Nobody’s Hero.” Explaining that they’re hoping to get a new record deal, the band soon trotted out several brand-new songs, not one of them bad ordifferent from what you’d expect. A standout was the slow reggae number “Listen to Your Heart.”
The last new song Jake prefaced with “I don’t know about you, but I am sick to death of seeing five young boys in vests doing backflips and calling that music…this is a song called ‘I Believe In the Power of Guitar and Drum.’” The anti-MTV anthemic ode to rock and roll snapped the crowd out of their temporary funk, the song’s sentiment alone getting fans to pogo again. “I see we’re of like mind on that one,” Jake said as the band finished to loud roars.
Next up was “No Surrender,” and a fight broke out. The combatants were quickly ejected. “To our more boisterous brethren up front,” Jake good-naturedly chided at the end of the song, “We’re up here singing about reconciliation and peace, and you’re fighting! Get a boxing license.” Soon SLF kicked into awesome mode with a string of old hits: “Wasted Life,” “Fly the Flag,” “Tin Soldiers,” and finally “Alternative Ulster.” Pogoing and singing along were at all-time highs. Their set had already clocked in at an hour and five minutes, but the boys came back for an encore, covering the Clash’s “White Riot” and closing with “At the Edge.”
It seems that over two decades SLF have lost none of their energy. Jake’s singing voice is as plaintive and hopeful as ever. And the band seemed as happy and excited to be up on stage playing as the crowd was to see them.
By Pat Kennedy