BELFAST anarchists Stiff Little Fingers made their return to Manchester last night settling down in another sold out show at the O2 Ritz. An organic punk band that followed in the footsteps of bands like The Clash and Sex Pistols, they were here to celebrate 40 years of individuality and unity.

Opening the night were Theatre Of Hate. A 1980s band with records produced by Mick Jones – and more than  a few dodgy hair cuts. Taking to the stage, their energy appeared to radiate with the crowd, sending fists into the air during popular tracks such as ‘Original Sin’.

An iconic punk sound with undertones of American Indian howling seemed to be the perfect recipe for a band that could only be described as the one your Dad may have pulled together back in the day, but only really used it as an excuse to drink copious amounts of ale and tell girls he was ‘in the band maaan’.

Ending on bass driven ‘Do You Believe In The Westworld’, a haunting track that sees the crowd perform a soldier like march it is clear that even though these pogoing punks may now be safety pinned pensioners, they can still get a packed out room going.

On a red lit stage surrounded by inflammable material, it was time for headliners Stiff Little Fingers to take us on that important trip back through time. The punk pioneers were here to celebrate 40 years of racing guitar riffs and revolutionary opinions.

Starting with ‘Breakout’ the crowd dispersed, flailing limbs and pint glasses in the air fuelled by the electricity from the band. Front man Jake Burns addresses the crowd exclaiming how lovely it is to be back in Manchester again, ‘it’s always a pleasure’ he says as the band bash out ‘Nobody’s Hero’ a track thatdiscusses political conflict and taking control of individuality in true punk style,

As the night is a celebration of the bands history, they share with the crowd tour memories and it becomes an intimate and extremely special experience for those whose lives have been soundtracked by this quartet.

They mention times shared with Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott, devoting ‘When We Were Young’ to him and comical events like packing their passports inside their suitcases before embarking on a world tour, ‘not the brightest idea’ they chuckle.

The night continues, driven by that distinctive distorted guitar and chest pounding drum beat on songs such as ‘Barbed Wire Love’. The crowd are completely lost in the music and clamber on top of each other, crowd-surfing and reliving the time in 1979 when they were hearing this music for the first time.

Before the group start ‘Strummerville’ they take time to importantly state how they were heavily influenced by The Clash, and how like many others here, their music was able to give them a voice at a time uniqueness was not so widely accepted. During this tribute to the band the crowd erupt into an elated chant of ‘CLASH CLASH, CLASH CITY ROCKERS’, a sense of passion and pride fills the room as nostalgia creeps back into the minds of many.

The high impact ‘Suspect Device’ closes the show as the band group together and divert off stage leaving the crowd anticipating their return as everyone knows they’re most definitely not finished.

They arrive back to a roar of excitement and the spectacular buzz returns. ‘Get Away’ is played to its max, the band still full of energy after an hour and a half of pure dynamic performance but the track everybody is waiting for comes last as the band finish on ‘Alternative Ulster’, Groups of men bundle together in delight, the track still sounding as new as it did when it was first released.

The night was a delightful showcase of iconic moments across 40 years of one of the most popular genres the world has ever seen. The punk movement may be getting on but it is still alive with one of the most powerful live experiences you could ever be part of.

By Emma Davidson

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