Belfast punk legends Stiff Little Fingers visited the Black Cat recently to play through their debut album Inflammable Material and to celebrate 40 years of publishing music. And the Irishmen brought along with them California punks The Avengers for a rousing good evening of rock.
On Oct. 23, Stiff Little Fingers began their show with a set of eight favorites drawn from other albums, notably their second record, Nobody’s Heroes, and third, Go for It, dating from 1980 and 1981 respectively. The very full house at Black Cat started the party early and grooved away to “Just Fade Away” and “16 Shots,” among others.
But the main event began when Stiff Little Fingers played “Suspect Device,” kicking off 12 songs from Inflammable Material in tracklist order. The end of the set culminated in their memorable cover of Bob Marley’s “Johnny Was” and ended on their signature number “Alternative Ulster.”
For an encore, Stiff Little Fingers returned for “Tin Soldiers” and “Gotta Gettaway” from the well-regarded Nobody’s Heroes. Throughout the show, lead vocalist Jake Burns played with a dexterity that makes your head spin. Jake’s rich speaking voice immediately reverted to a different register, recalling the days of his youth, and he rebelled as gloriously and rapturously as he may have 40 years ago.
Stream Inflammable Material by Stiff Little Fingers on Spotify:
Stiff Little Fingers smartly brought along an opening act that made it well worth showing up early — The Avengers, a 1970s punk band hailing from San Francisco.
The band originally was active for only a few years, but it made a tremendous impression in that brief time. After the band dissolved, it released a self-titled album, known also as “The Pink Album” in 1983. The record remains today pure listening gold.
Fronted by Penelope Houston, The Avengers never truly toured the East Coast by all accounts. And so on Oct. 23, a packed house eagerly awaited their performance at Black Cat, where The Avengers did not disappoint. The band drew six songs from the Pink Album, including “We Are the One” at the midpoint of a 13-song set.
Admirers like The Pietasters’ Steve Jackson agreed with the observation that The Avengers never really got their due, as the band dissolved before it could promote any record. But those Pink Album tunes — including “Thin White Line” early in the set and “Car Crash” toward the end — are punchy sonic gems that recall the early days of mid-’70s contemporaries like Blondie. Penelope sang with verve and vigor, and the band performed with the right mix of defiance and joy.
Stream The Avengers by The Avengers (aka The Pink Album) on Spotify:
Here are some pictures of The Avengers performing at the Black Cat on Oct. 23, 2019 — along with a photo of The Avengers active in San Francisco during the band’s original run circa 1977-79. All photos copyright and courtesy of Chester Simpson.
Here are some pictures of Stiff Little Fingers performing at the Black Cat on Oct. 23, 2019 — along with a few pix of Stiff Little Fingers in 1980! All photos copyright and courtesy of Chester Simpson.
Nice review — I thought SLF were really great and was anxiously awaiting Alternative Ulster but left early because the acoustics were atrocious — with one exception (PIL — maybe because they brought their own sound gear), I have found the acoustics at Black Cat to be horrible—musicianship is hard to appreciate and vocals are muddled at best, despite how well the vocalist sings! Any thoughts?