Stiff Little Fingers / Gold Blade - 53 Degrees Preston - 26.3.6

Its Sunday night at just after 7.45 and even though the venue is just beginning to fill up Gold Blade's frontman John Robb makes it his job to create a warm and welcome atmosphere for everyone here tonight. He invites the crowd to come down the front, shakes hands with the men, kisses the women and with the rest of Gold Blade mixes rock'n'roll with punk in a very entertaining fashion. The brass section of earlier line-ups is now a thing of the past but the energy is even more manic with the music becoming increasingly heavier. "Strictly Hardcore" is vintage Gold Blade while "Psycho" is an invited call for the crowd to show off their singing abilities. The two guitarists, all tattoos and brute force give the band a real gang mentality with even an extra drummer for posterity. When Robb takes off his shirt, the girls cheer at his physique. With only half an hours stage time the set whizzes by  in no time ending with the power chord brilliance of "Do You Believe In The Power Of Rock N Roll?". Desperate to return for one more song Gold Blade are told there's no more time which is a crying shame.

Things get off to a shaky start for Belfast's Stiff Little Fingers as halfway though their first song "Tin Soldier" beer from the audience is thrown all over singer and guitarist Jake Burns. Incandescent with rage Jake warns that is any such incident happens again the band will walk off and not return. It's also worth noting that former bass player Ali McMordie is back after 16 years absence. Although primarily known for their three chord punk songs there's so much more going on with SLF's. "Tinderbox" sounds a bit like Alice Cooper's "Poison", "Silver Lining" is a Tamla Motown influenced song given the Stiff Little Fingers treatment. "Can't Get Away With That" is a touching tribute to Joe Strummer while "Hope Street" purposely bears a striking resemblance to Thin Lizzy as it's dedicated to Phil Lynot. Musically it all sounds fresh and vibrant which is quite a feat considering they're now four middle aged blokes.

Stiff Little Fingers have a sly, sarcastic sense of humour especially with the comments from Jake Burns directing the sentiments of the song "I Believe In The Power Of Guitars And Drums" to the mediocrity of reality TV Talent show impresarios such as Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh. At the end of their set SLF's tell us it was a privilege to play at Preston carefully forgetting to mention the shameful antics of the phantom beer slinger.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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