In celebration of an amazing 25 years of St Patrick's Day shows at Scotland's legendary venue Barrowland, Stiff Little Fingers have released a live DVD to mark the occasion. With the help of their loyal fans and a Pledge campaign, the result is Best Served Loud, a DVD filled with 91 minutes of Belfast's finest punk band.
An enticing introduction of Go For It leads us into Wasted Life and Just Fade Away. It's clear from the opening tracks that the 2000 strong crowd and the band are passionately marking a landmark performance in the band's history. The energy is fast and furious, the crowd typically welcoming, emerging themselves in the music, crowd surfing, chanting, jumping, cheering with Jake Burns hailing them as 'the greatest fucking audience on the planet.' It's fans like that that have ensured the band have had the longevity over the last three decades. The packed ballroom just haemorrhages sweat and excitement so much that it just explodes out of the TV as the band play through abounding and striking set – the DVD captures the raw energy of the show rather than the clinical precision of some filmed shows.
Jake Burns jokes about shunning the Brit Awards and talks about more serious matters such as his own struggle with depression and subsequent catharsis in writing My Dark Places as a 'self-help guide. There are tributes to friends and heroes too with a cover of it Doesn't Make It Alright, dedicated to their friend John Bradbury from The Specials and Joe Strummer in Strummerville. The themes of corruption and inequality are constants in the genre as is defying authority. Here SLF challenge those in power with two provocative tracks, the first, Silver Lining deals with the financial divisions in society caused by governments and the second, the folkier but none the less powerful, Guilty As Sin confronts the Churches' child abuse scandal with gravitas and integrity. The closest thing the band have to a love song, Barbed Wire Love, Suspect Device and Alternative Ulster, of course, all make the set list. Lesser played track Back To Front also makes a rare appearance, thanks to an online poll.
Stiff Little Fingers may lack some of the Berserker aggression of some other bands, with SLF there;s always been a focus on the songs and the melody rather than being outrageously anarchistic - it's not all about thrashing about on stage; their songs are clearly as relevant today as they were 25 years ago. Their steady pummeling enables them to pace themselves throughout the set with a more mature energy that will keep them going for at least the next 25 years or as long as there are guitars and drums!
Groupie Rating 4/5