“Have we got any scumbags in the audience?!” bellows IDLES frontman Joe Talbot to the 900 strong mob loaded into every available crevice of The Leadmill. A question met with riotous confirmation as IDLES launch into “I’m Scum”, one of their many finely honed barrages of politically charged, angular, noise rock. Kicking off the first night of a monster European & US tour from Sheffield to Seattle, the Bristol 5-piece have got their work cut out for them. Sustaining that level of intensity and show-stopping performances night after night for the next 10 weeks is going to be tough. However, IDLES are competent touring veterans, toiling away on the circuit for over a decade, earning themselves a reputation as one of the hardest working British bands around.
Their frenzied on-stage antics are a visual spectacle that needs to be witnessed first-hand, but Idles are not all about stage rage, shouting and Olympic level crowd surfing. There is just something spectacular about the furious pace of the drums; the jackhammer approach of the bass and guitars, combined with sharp, right between the eyes, socially aware lyrics, that creates the most unique gig atmosphere I’ve seen in a long time. A sense of unity and inclusivity rules alongside the fury and are directed at the villains of the world. With a strong, expertly paced and delivered setlist, there’s barely a chance to breathe between songs as the band fire off one fiercely discordant anthem after another. No encore for IDLES. Why waste time offstage massaging your ego to chants of “One more song!” when you could have squeezed another two in that time? They get in, they shake the room to the ground, they get out of there.
The key to sustaining the crowd’s attention for the 80-minute set was the clever dynamics that Idle’s structure so many of their songs with. Rare for a punk band, guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan often step back, providing only a few scratchy stabs of emphatic feedback, to let the vocals breathe and do justice to the lyrics. Lyrics backed only by Jon Beavis’ pounding drum beat, chemically bonded to Adam Devonshire’s solid bass line, consisting of just 2 or 3 well-chosen notes. Once that verse has been spat out and tension has built to a fever pitch, IDLES unleash the full colossus, a gargantuan full band attack of a chorus, each time as powerful as it is memorable. Singer Joe Talbot stalks the stage sporting a T-shirt from support band Crows. Once again proving himself to be a certified legend, he wastes no time declaring Crows the best band in the country, chastising them for “making Idles feel old and shit”. Praise that must be the dream scenario for any opening band. The recent success of the band’s Top 5 charting second album “Joy As An Act of Resistance” was evident as the crowd didn’t just holler back choruses but even the verses, filling the air with brilliant chants such as “You’re not suave ’cause you watched Get Carter, You are a catalogue, plastic Sinatra. A tryhard, you should’ve tried harder;” taking a bite out of pretentious machismo in the song “Never Fight a Man With a Perm”
Oversubscribed beyond belief, The Leadmill could barely contain itself. Is it still a mosh pit if the whole crowd is a pit? Is it now a mosh region? A mosh principality? I don’t know… it got very hairy. I felt sorry for the front row. Or jealous? I haven’t decided yet. What I do know is that I felt very lucky to be part of this gig. The first night of a mammoth tour that is undoubtedly going to equally raise hell and build bridges all over this tiny fractured island. Do yourself a favour, don’t be idle, get a damn ticket.
HEAL / HEEL WELL DONE
FAITH IN THE CITY
DIVIDE & CONQUER
NEVER FIGHT A MAN WITH A PERM