Why Stiff Little Fingers’ Paris gig had to go ahead – By Jake Burns
As a teenager in Northern Ireland, Stiff Little Fingers’ Jake Burns grew up surrounded by bombs, bullets and cancelled gigs.
We heard the news about the attacks on the Bataclan after our show in Dublin on the same night. To be honest, it didn't register on me right away that Paris was only two gigs away on our schedule – we were simply as shocked and appalled as everyone else.
Of course, it began to sink in when we heard the extent of the tragedy and of the French government's ban on public gatherings. Our attitude from the start was one of wait and see. If we could play, we would. My teenage years in Belfast were spent dealing with civil unrest on a daily basis and that meant that bands I desperately wanted to see wouldn't come and play there. That deprived me and many others of a normal part of growing up. That word "normal" became key to my thinking regarding our situation and whether or not we played Paris. Ironically, the show after Dublin for us was Belfast. It suddenly seemed very safe compared with other cities.
We played our Edinburgh show after Belfast and went to sleep on the tour bus headed for Dover and still no idea whether we'd be allowed to play on the Tuesday evening. News reached us at the ferry port that the promoter was able to get permission to stage the show. We arrived in Paris around 11pm.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't slightly apprehensive about playing, mainly because there was a sudden media feeding frenzy around us, something we hadn't had to deal with in a long time. I was very aware of needing to stick to my "normal" mantra. Things had to get back to "normal" as soon as possible – that was why we were playing. I had to be very careful in what I said. The absolute last thing we wanted was for people to think we were doing this for some form of ghoulish publicity. We had to be respectful of the dead and injured and at the same time present a hopeful face for a quick return to "normality".
In the end, I needn't have worried. As soon as we went on stage it felt like a "normal" show, apart from the calls from the audience thanking us for being there. We tried to play the same as every other night, although there may have been a bit more emotion in my voice singing the line: ‘Killing isn't my idea of fun’ [Wasted Life]. I only made mention of the tragedy once, at the end of the night, and even then just to let those in attendance know that the world was with them. I certainly felt we were.
After the show, our merchandise guy handed me a note from a young Lebanese woman who had been in the audience. In it, she thanked us for "our courage and for being there." We didn't feel particularly courageous and I certainly felt the same about the audience. It was a night none of us will ever forget.