STIFF LITTLE FINGERS / EDDIE AND THE HOT RODS - Barrowlands Ballroom, Glasgow 16.03.19



STIFF LITTLE FINGERS are a band who are close to my heart. Many moons ago I played guitar in ‘Straw Dogs’ who were at the time the only official ‘Fingers’ tribute band endorsed by SLF frontman Jake Burns. This gave us some kudos and the band toured the U.K for around ten years before I left and the band disbanded. Now we have X-SLF who have taken up the mantle. This only goes to so how successful and respected SLF are when there are multiple tribute acts paying homage to them who are accepted by SLF fans. STIFF LITTLE FINGERS are a bit of an institution here in Glasgow and the highlight in the calendar of any fan is their annual St Paddy’s day gig at ‘The Barraz’. This gig sells out fast and due to high demand this year SLF played two nights. 

The Glasgow Barrowlands is situated in a market area of the East End of Glasgow, just a short distance away from Celtic’s football ground. The area is lined with tenement buildings and flirts on the border line where the city centre ends and the East meets. At the weekend the Barrows is full of market traders selling all kinds of items, historically ‘sports socks and gas lighters’. You could pick up a bargain or two along with bootleg DVDs and CDs. By night the famous dance hall set above the market comes alive as it plays host to some of the most legendary bands to tour the UK for the past 50 odd years. Tonight is no exception. SLF will play their warm up show for their St Paddy’s day gig the following night.

I am delighted to discover that EDDIE AND THE HOT RODS are supporting SLF on their tour. Formed in 1975 in Essex, the band found success with songs such as ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ and ‘Teenage Depression’. The band have many line-up changes over the years with Barrie Masters the only constant member of the band. It’s clear the band are extremely comfortable on stage and Barrie (a mysterious figure behind his black sunglasses) brims with confidence and pride in his band. They play exceptionally well and are as tight as a duck’s…Well, you get the picture. 

It may have taken them 43 years to get to this stage, but the road has led to an exceptional band who played to a room full of excited fans. And speaking of those fans, I spoke to a good few people before the gig who were eagerly anticipating THE HOT RODS. I’m glad I got the opportunity to shoot them as I got some nice pics, especially of Barrie. What a legendary front man! Please don’t stop touring!


Take a look at Top of The Pops 1980 clip of SLF playing ‘Nobody’s Hero’ and it might remind you a bit of Green Day. It’s clear that generations of musicians since have looked to SLF for inspiration in looks and sound. Hailing from Belfast, Northern Ireland, ‘Fingers’ formed in 1977 and wrote songs about the troubles in Northern Ireland that they experienced. Living in these affected areas, they were exposed to the harsh daily living which comes across in songs like ‘Alternative Ulster’, ‘Suspect Device’ and ‘Waster Lives’. 

When you take a look at SLF’s back catalogue of songs it’s staggering as they have so many great songs, each a gem and the band show no signs of slowing down. By their own admissions they put the ‘Fast’ in Belfast! It’s great to see three generations of fans attending this show, introducing their children and grandchildren to one of the most important and respected bands to ride from the 1977 Punk movement. 

I make my way to the pit, flashing my pass to the lovely security staff. As I weave my way through the growing crowd, I scan around to see just who has come to see SLF tonight. I love to people watch. I see some very familiar faces waiting in anticipation for ‘Fingers’ to come on stage. The lights fade,and the drum beat of ‘Go For It’ pounds over the P.A. This is the countdown…SLF will be walking on in a matter of seconds. 

The lights come on and out of the darkness I can see the outlines of three men picking up their guitars whilst one positions himself behind the drum kit. 

Before I know it, ‘Law and Order’ has kicked in and the gig is propelled into top gear. The other photographers and myself scurry about like ants getting into position to get the shots needed to illustrate the night’s events. I just wanted to stop and watch and get lost in the music, however the next three songs (no flash) I’d need to fire off shots like there’s no tomorrow. I think 3,477 is probably some sort of record…even for me! 90% will be junked and only around 50 will make the cut! My years of practicing changing lens in the dark has paid off as I’m down to 18 seconds to take off my go-to lens to my even bigger go-to lens (I’m not telling the size). The well-rehearsed military operation allows for flexible ranges without the expense of a secondary camera body. 

As I retired to the back of the hall to sit on the riser and enjoy the rest of the gig, I was satisfied that I manged to get some ‘okish’ shots, good enough to show you all a snapshot of the action! Despite being a fan and reviewing the gig as it unravelled that night, STIFF LITTLE FINGERS played exceptionally well. In fact, they performed the best I’ve seen them. Jake spoke about Trump and other recent issues circulating in the media. This is natural as SLF are musical documentarians. They write and play songs about issues of the time, which are issues that are still poignant today as they were in 1977, or 1980, or any other point between then and now. I dare say the political issues won’t go away and will still be relevant next year and the year after that and so on. What I’m also sure about is SLF’s ability to hold an appeal for existing fans and pick up new ones along the way.


PS. I don’t practice changing lens in the dark…That would be sad! ;)