Picturedrome, Holmfirth, UK
22nd July 2016
Tonight Stiff Little Fingers are playing the Picturedrome, this is a venue that lies in the heart of the picturesque Yorkshire town of Holmfirth, it might seem like an unlikely setting for a live venue, even more so for a punk concert, but over the years this venue has established itself as one of the best live venues in the UK and is an almost certain destination of many bands tour schedules. Stiff Little Fingers current line up has been stable for the last ten years and features two original members, bassist Ali McCordie and of course, the only ever present member of the band, frontman and guitarist Jake Burns, who are complimented by long term, members guitarist Ian McCallum and drummer Steve Grantley.
Louise Distras opens tonight’s proceedings, she is playing a solo acoustic set that mainly features stripped down versions of the songs that populated her acclaimed debut album, Dreams From The Factory Floor. Initially she plays to a sparsely populated Picturedrome, but as she plays her heartfelt powerful songs, it’s clear that her set is well received as the crowd swiftly swells, drawing in people who have been enjoying the late evening sunshine outside the venue. She delivers her politically sussed lyrics with venom and her compositions aren’t tamed by being played acoustically. Amongst the set we also get treated to some of her new material, that will hopefully be seeing release later this year, and the new songs sound as strong as those which came before.
Louise Distras plays a set that features songs of heartbreak and of social injustice, these are both delivered with equal passion, her powerful and emotive vocals ring out across the venue, and as all the doors in the venue are open as the Picturedrome is already approaching boiling point, across the town of Holmfirth. Louise Distras is one of the most promising singer songwriters in the UK, she can deliver silky smooth vocals, but she can equally spit venom with barely restrained fury. Every time I’ve seen her play I’ve been impressed with her commitment and passion, and if you want to hear someone who captures the essence of the defiant spirit of punk then you need look no further than Louise Distras.
Following Louise Distras set the Picturedrome swiftly fills to capacity, Stiff Little Fingers have accrued a die hard following over their almost four decade long career, whilst much of the audience is over forty it’s heartening to see the crowd contains a healthy number of young faces, and there are also a few parents who have bought their children along for tonight’s show, so the next generation of punks are also present. A dub heavy set of music precedes the traditional and familiar strains of Go Fot It that indicates that Stiff Little Fingers set is imminent, the packed crowd sing out the guitar riff and as it fades out an almighty cheer greets Belfast’s finest as they take the stage.
They open with Wasted Life, immediately the audience is singing along to every word of tonight’s breakneck run through Stiff Little Fingers extensive back catalogue, which continues unabated with Fade Away and Roots, Radicals, Rockers And Reggae. Jake Burns announces that the next song is dedicated to Simon Cowell, the man responsible for the bland offerings of the X Factor, he states “five young boys doing backflips does not constitute a rock ‘n roll band” prior to them launching into Guitar And Drum. Nobody’s Hero is of course well received but the biggest cheer of the night is reserved for Barbed Wire Love, the idea of a breakdown in a punk song into a fifties rock ‘n roll style has often been copied, by bands such as The Vandals and Masked Intruder, but it has never been bettered than in this incendiary number.
The tempo is briefly brought down for Listen, and Doesn’t Make It Alright is dedicated to the memory of John Bradbury, the drummer from The Specials who sadly passed away at the end of 2015. When they play Silver Lining it sounds better than ever, as it’s now shorn of the horn section and over production that the original recording featured. Guilty As Sin is dedicated to those that stood up and spoke about the sexual abuse of children by priests. Wait And See continues the near perfect set list and Strummerville is dedicated to the memory of The Clash’s much missed frontman Joe Strummer. When My Dark Places is played Jake Burns is frank and open about the battles with depression he’s experienced.
The career spanning set keeps the capacity crowd active and vocal throughout, as Fly The Flag is played I notice that the movement amongst the crowd, people are bouncing, dancing and singing throughout the venue, even those who have stayed near the bar. Jake Burns seems to be a born raconteur and he provides insights into the origin of songs throughout the set, he introduces When We Were Young as being inspired by a meeting with the late Phil Lynott when both Stiff Little Fingers and Thin Lizzy had split up. An extended introduction leads into Tin Soldiers and the temperature continues to rise and when the classic Suspect Device, their debut single from 1979, is played the roof is practically raised at the Picturedrome
Stiff Little Fingers leave the stage and the crowd is left baying for more, everyone is dripping with sweat, even the bar staff and the merchandise seller are visibly wilting, as the Picturedrome has now developed a furnace like temperature due to the exuberant energy of tonight’s crowd. The band return after only a brief moment and launch into an encore of Gotta Gettaway, of course Alternative Ulster inevitably closes the set in fine defiant form. This is a band that remains as relevant and rebellious as ever as they approach their 40th anniversary. I wish I could say that their songs aren’t relevant anymore and they are songs from darker times, given the current political situation in the UK you could argue that they are as, if not more, relevant than ever.
Tonight’s show was a near perfect meeting of punks incendiary past and it’s defiant and hopeful future that anyone who attended will not forget for a long time. Both Stiff Little Fingers and Louise Distras will be playing this years Rebellion Festival, and if you’re lucky enough to be attending then I would recommend catching both of them live.
Stiff Little Fingers website can be found here
You can visit Louise Distras‘s website here
The Holmfirth Picturedrome‘s homepage can be found here
Live Photography is by Paul Husband, Paul is an award winning Manchester based photographer, his website can be found here