Stiff Little Fingers - Portraits@Newcastle O2 Academy, March 15 2014

It’s been 30 years since punk pioneers Stiff Little Fingers released their seminal debut album Inflammable Material. With a new record that’s been 10 years in the making, the working class warriors are still representing why the over-50s are doing it right – with just as much brazenness as ever.

The mosh pit for the evening’s show is inundated with a profusion of has-been punks – who, for one night only, are rekindling that flicker of fieriness that still smolders inside of them. 

As frontman Jake Burns struts onto the stage, a wall of bald heads, beer guts and faded Stiff Little Fingers t-shirts surges forward, forcing any young punk hopefuls to watch from the side.

Although Ali McMordie parted ways with the band for more than 10 years before his return in 2006, his energy and spirit onstage displays why he is the only bass player that Stiff Little Fingers has ever needed.

Burns may look like a typical middle-aged dad these days but his passion and aggression is still as raw as it ever was. Classics such as Tin Soldiers, Barbed Wire Love and Suspect Device are everything they need to be – loud, brash and seething with rage.

But when the evening takes a more solemn twist with track My Dark Places, from new album No Going Back, the usual rage in Burns’ voice seems faded, almost obsolete. The heart-wrenching and honest lyrics about his battle with depression clearly affect those aged members of the crowd – as if they understand exactly what he is saying.

A cover of the Specials’ Doesn’t Make It Alright quickly lifts any dampened spirits before the band return with not just one, but two encores – an impressive accomplishment considering the venue’s early Saturday night deadline. Anthem Alternative Ulster is the closing track for the evening’s performance, delivered with just as much attitude as 30 years ago.

Three decades on and Stiff Little Fingers are still proving why age is no barrier in the world of punk rock. Whether or not they’ll still be performing in 10 years’ time is irrelevant because, for now, the Belfast protestors are providing audiences with anthems old and new. Anthems that will still resonate with generations of punks in years to come.

Emma Carter