The last time that I was in the Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgow the experience jarred with my rose tinted memories from yesteryear. The security stopped just short of giving me a cavity search and guests at Guantanamo Bay probably had their human rights respected more than I did that night.
Then there were the signs every few feet telling the patrons not to crowd surf, not to throw drinks, not to take photographs, not to smoke and while they are basic requirements the plethora of posters telling us what not to do only served to give us the impression that smiling and dancing would also be frowned upon. The place was in negative equity that night. It didn’t matter how much you were going to put into enjoying yourself. It was still going to be touch and go if you did.
Thankfully they appear to have had a rethink about how this heavy handed approach has an impact on their customers and their enjoyment of the night. The signs have vanished and all I got was a little pat down from the guy on the door.
So straight from the word go this was a far more pleasurable experience than previously.
Once we headed upstairs we had a look at the merchandise, and as a regular gig goer I will have to say that no one beats SLF when it comes to merchandise. Realistic prices, options for package deals, an avoidance of tacky shite, and best of all customer service with a smile.
Kelly bought a t-shirt, ten badge set and a poster package that came to twenty quid. Everything was of the best quality and I seriously doubt that any other band is going to offer a better deal than that.
Inside the hall the place was starting to fill up so we took a prime spot down the front against the barrier and within a short while Combat Rock came on.
Now on a positive note I’ll say that Combat Rock are up there in the premier league of Clash covers bands. They don’t slavishly try to copy Strummer, Jones and co note for note and pose for pose, but they do have the essence of the Clash and punters of a certain age love them.
So while I did enjoy their set I would still have to say that I would rather have seen a relatively new band getting the slot, or even an older punk band making a rare appearance in Scotland.
Their securing of the support slot didn’t take anything away from the night though. So it’s a minor gripe.
Once they had warmed the crowd up it wasn’t long until Stiff Little Fingers arrived to a reception that would usually be reserved for the second coming of some guy who says his fathers the big cheese of everything. This St Patrick Day gig by the band has reached legendary status with people travelling from near, far and very very far to see what it’s all about. Probably because it has taken on such a status SLF know that this is the night, more so than any other, that they really have to go for it. If they give 100% every other gig then this is the one they have to put in 110.
For some bands starting with one of their most loved tracks means that everything is going to go downhill from that point on, but not for these lads.
They have a wealth of top notch material to dip into and tonight all the favourites are pumped out. There was also a few surprises when they threw forward some songs that are rarely played. Bits of kids had the hairs standing up on the back of my neck as did Listen, a song that is one of my all time SLF favourites.
Another highlight from early in the set was Strummerville. As a Clash fan I don’t think that anyone has come as close to SLF in expressing the loss many people felt when Strummer passed. In writing that song Jake managed to eloquently put into words exactly what we all wanted to say. Then when you hear it live it just takes on an even larger persona. It’s a huge song.
The only unrecorded song that was aired was Liars Club. A track that Jake informed us has been getting played for around two years but that they still haven’t gotten around to laying down in the studio. Well all I can say to that is why not? It fits in well with the flow of the rest of the material and it’s a Fingers classic in waiting. That it was originally about Bush and Blair doesn’t really matter. I mean come on. With the expenses row in the UK it needs highlighted that the politicos in positions of power are all members of the Liars Club. It’s a timeless statement, but I want to hear a studio version sooner rather than later. Preferably with and albums worth of material alongside it.
Visually the band are looking as good as you could expect from some aging punks. Jakes never been a pin up, but when you have a talent for belting out anthemic punk rock like he does I would argue that image is a secondary consideration. So who gives a toss if he looks like your uncle.
Personally I’m pleased that Ali is back in the band and it looks like he is to. He’s a dynamo on the stage and you can tell that he gives it his all. There isn’t a moment that he become stationary. It’s all go from start to finish for him. One minute he’s strumming the bass line manically as he hops about and the next he’s modelling a punter from the crowds novelty Irish hat with a ‘look at me I‘m having a blast and I don‘t give a fuck‘ attitude. Throughout it all the grin never leaves his face.
The polar opposite is Ian who has a more workmanlike approach to the performance, and while I can appreciate his playing he still has a little way to go before he looks entirely comfortable up there. As for Steve. Well Steve is a drummers drummer and does what needs to be done. He is rock solid in the back and holds everything together with a fair degree of style. Over all they are a powerful force on stage. There is no real messing about or posturing. I guess the point I want to make is they walk it like they talk it. None of them are carrying any slack for each other.
Over all the gig reaffirmed my faith in the band and my reservations about attending the St Pats show have all but gone now.
The only downsides of the night had absolutely nothing to do with the band. Early on in the set I was receiving lovely little kicks and knees to the back of my legs and regular kidney punches. This wasn’t the usual argy bargy you get down the front and obviously whoever was behind me was wanting my prime spot. As the crowd was a bit tight I couldn’t get moving around to have a word until a lull, and by the time I did my patience had all but gone. Basically I was well past the point of politely asking them to pack it in. Strangely enough when I did manage to turn round I found my assailant was a small woman who I reckon was in her thirties and was lucky if she was hitting the five foot mark. So all I did was give her the evil eye and she fucked off, but then the next morning when I woke up my lower back was aching and I was thinking that maybe my gentlemanly opinion that you shouldn’t lamp women is something I should reconsider.
The other thing is that there always appears to be a group of men in the crowd who can’t tell the difference between exuberant and boisterous enjoyment of a show and aggressive macho posturing.
I have a theory about them and it’s that they haven’t been to any gigs for over a decade and are having a bit of a mid life crisis and are therefore revisiting their youth.
That’s why you always get them at gigs by SLF, The Damned and their ilk.
I’d also hazard a guess that they also don’t get out much. So when they do they get completely rat arsed and make absolute tits of themselves, and that’s fair enough, but when young fans and women can’t get anywhere near the stage because a fat bald forty five year old is wanting to show how hard he is by acting like a human bowling ball while spastically elbowing everyone out of the way then I think that it’s time he had a reality check and just fucked off.
So if you recognize this person from the description and it is you then to be really honest about it listen to this. NO ONE CAN BE FUCKED WITH YOU. Like SLF say. GET A LIFE.