Published Oct 29, 2016Gearing up for a 2017 UK tour to mark the band's 40th anniversary, Stiff Little Fingers played the penultimate date of their Canadian trip at Ottawa's newly-renovated Bronson Centre. Making their first ever appearance in the nation's capital, the 850-seat theatre was overrun with droves of middle-aged fans who dusted off their leather, spikes and bottles of Manic Panic for the occasion.
Opening the evening, Ottawa garage throwbacks Mother's Children showed off their vast knowledge of '70s rock as they shimmied across the stage, delivering a half hour of punchy, rhythmic punk rock that relied heavily on vocalist Kenneth James' fashionable and buoyant vocals alongside Tim Ostler's frenetic drumming.
Entering at the un-punk hour of 9 p.m., Stiff Little Fingers — including founding members Jake Burns on vocals and guitars and Ali McMordie on bass, alongside singer-songwriter Ian McCallum on guitar and journeyman drummer Steve Grantley — were nonetheless met with enthusiastic cheers and raised fists from the half-full venue. After kicking off the set with "Wasted Life" (from their iconic 1979 debut, Inflammable Material), the four-piece delved into "Just Fade Away" from their latest LP, 2014's No Going Back.
Completely skipping over their uneven '90s material, the band delivered high-energy renditions of some of their fan-favorites, including "Barbed Wire Love," their version of Bunny Wailer's "Roots, Radicals, Rockers and Reggae" and "Nobody's Hero" from their 1980 classic, Nobody's Heroes.
Burns, pushing 60, rarely sounded winded or out-of-tune throughout the set, and even shone a light on some of the group's lesser-known songs like the Clash tribute "Strummerville" and the Phil Lynott-inspired "When We Were Young."
The band harkened back to their debut single, "Suspect Device," to close the set, but returned for a double encore that included an extended version of Bob Marley and the Wailers' "Johnny Was" and the immortal "Alternative Ulster."
Joining arms and bowing to the grateful crowd, Stiff Little Fingers looked humbled, content and ready to give it another 40 years.