As a schoolboy in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Jake Burns sang and played guitar in cover band called Highway Star, named after the Deep Purple song. The band switched to punk rock in 1977, at the height of the Troubles in the band's homeland, and renamed itself Stiff Little Fingers after a Vibrators song. Stiff Little Fingers recorded politically-charged songs and became a pivotal punk band, but split acrimoniously in 1982 after six years, four albums and many personnel changes. Burns revived the brand five years later and remains the sole original member, but early bassist Ali McMordie rejoined in 2006. The current band also consists of guitarist Ian McCallum and drummer Steve Grantley. Stiff Little Fingers released its 10th album, No Going Back, on August 11, 2014.
At Irving Plaza tonight, Stiff Little Fingers mixed the punk of its earlier years with the pop of its later years. The band excelled most with its earlier catalogue, however, like "Wasted Life", "Nobody’s Hero", "Barbed Wire Love", "Alternative Ulster" and a 10-minute version of "Johnny Was." The band also fared well with new songs "My Dark Places," a song originating from Burns' personal bout with depression, and "When We Were Young," which leaned in the direction of country music. Burns sang well, was often personable between songs (although he angrily told one constantly-shouting fan to pipe down while he spoke), and generally injected maturity into the 37-year-old band's performance.
Visit Stiff Little Fingers at www.slf.com.