IDLES

IDLES - UK Tour, October 2018,

Nov 12, 2018 Web Exclusive
Bookmark and Share


As the voices of 2000+ raise through London's Kentish Town Forum, tears seem to spring to their eyes. "This song is about how much I love immigrants," snarled singer Joe Talbot moments earlier to deafening cheers from the throng. Now they're all screaming together: "Fear leads to panic/Panic leads to pain/Pain leads to anger/Anger leads to hate" before intoning the wordless, Ramones-like chorus, climaxing with the full-throated scream of the song's title; the name of Talbot's best friend; the singer in tonight's exceptional support act Heavy Lungs and proud Ukrainian immigrant, Danny Nedelko.

Talbot seems to be crying, as does bassist Adam Devonshire (who confirms in conversation the following night that they were, indeed, in floods of tears). I'm crying, that's for certain, and become unable to continue the sing-along due to the lump in my throatat least until the next go-around and the pre-chorus perfection of the single shouted word "UNITY!"

Tonight is Bristol band IDLES' biggest headline show to date and, conversely, the last chance a London audience will have to see them in a venue this small.

Two nights earlier, at Bristol's excellent SWX venue, IDLES stage a homecoming show that's as savagely oversold as it is rapturously received. Before Heavy Lungs even take the stage it's next to impossible to move in the 1100 capacity room. By the time IDLES land just after 9 p.m., Jon Beavis leading the charge with his lone drumbeat at the front of the mighty "Colossus," the extended pit is at fever pitch. When the song's searing, supercharged second half kicks in"I'm like Stone Cold Steve Austin/I put homophobes in coffins"the place explodes in a barrage of elbows, knees, power-launched crowdsurfers firing overhead, and, above all, smiling, howling faces intoning every one of Talbot's joyous, righteous, empowering words like a mantra.

We don't have tickets for the sold-out after show DJ set, but a pair of fans leaving the Exchange tear off their wristbands and hand them to us as we make our way through the unlit park at Bristol's riverside. We're in the same hostel for the night and they simply ask that we don't wake them up when we get in as payment for the yellow paper straps. This is typical AF Gang behavior.

There's more of it as we watch Joe drop some wonderful old school hip-hop alongside a few New Wave classics in the back room, sipping pints of Joy as an Act of Resistance beer (a near-lethal 6.2% ABV named after the band's latest album) as we dance. A long and kind embrace from bassist Dev, a handful of AF Gang badges handed out by their maker; this a place full of warmth, compliments, encouragement and love.

AFGang is the online group of IDLES supporters that, over the last year or so, has become an extended family for both the band and fans like myself. Topics from favorite TV shows and albums via mental health and mindfulness, to positivity and well-being are discussed in intensely personal, yet comfortable ways. We call on one another to seek help and supportand the AF Gang meet-ups before and after shows have become the stuff of minor legend.

Joe Talbot describes the gang thusly: "They come to our shows and they allow us to be vulnerable on stage and they allow us to speak our own language which is a beautiful thing. Being in a place where you feel confident in your own skin, to be free and safe is a great thing and they give us that, we haven't built that. It's like a gift that we've been given that we didn't ask for and it's amazing. We just hope that we can sustain that with our performance live and encourage other people to be vulnerable and feel safe at our shows. The AF gang is a marvelous creation that has helped us become better musicians."

In between Bristol and their headline London show, on Wednesday night the band are awarded the Q Magazine award for Best Breakthrough Act alongside magnificent UK punk band Goat Girl before supporting the hugely popular Wolf Alice at the Camden Roundhouse. It's hard to believe they will be supporting anyone at this venue again.

At the Kentish Town after-showa boozier, far sillier affair than it needed to bethere's more of that loveliness. Bathed in the warmth of a spectacular, communal set including chant-along instant classics like anti-Brexit anthem "Great" and hymn to self-love "Television," the fans huddle, cuddle, dance, drink, love themselves and one another. It's pretty close to being a thing of true beauty.

The inclusive, aggressive, polemical, political euphoria of their recent breakthrough album Joy as an Act of Resistance is a vast leap onward from their admittedly excellent debut, last year's Brutalism. While I found a lot to admire and enjoy on that earlier record it's a far more abrasive, unyielding beast than its friendly follow-up. Where the former highlighted a plethora of personal and political problems, Joy, rather wonderfully, attempts to find answers to those problems and bring as many of us along for the ride as possible.

This, along with an almost ludicrous dedication to live performance, relentless touring, dead-on management, and the unswerving dedication of their fanbase, has led to their rise to these kinds of venues and these kinds of glorious receptions.

With all of their UK and European shows now sold out or near to, the party moves on to Manchester's Ritz club on Friday night, where touts nagging for £100+ per scalped ticket (no-one buys, don't worry) and The Worst Hostel in the History of the World (it's called Hatter's folks, steer clear) fail to dampen spirits. The sight-lines at the venue are perfect from every vantage point, the pit is friendly, fun, and uproarious as ever. "Mother" leads to the inevitable, deafening chants of the beautifully obscene chorus, Talbot raising his fist and nodding in approval of the crowd's adoration for feminist swear-fests.

"I haven't cared this much about a band in years," and variations on that phrase are the most overheard comments of this run of gigs. It shows, too, in the thrilling squeals that welcome "Gotho 1049," in the hands that lift near-naked guitarist Mark Bowen through the crowd during a wild "Exeter" and in the crazed yet polite stage invasion that provides the climax to that song. Fans are handed Bowen and Lee Kiernan's guitars, Talbot managing to control the increasingly out-of-hand crowd situation with compassion and kindness.

Over at The Venue for the Mancunian after-party it's magical; a massive group of fans meeting, embracing, sharing drinks and stories; a hug, a handshake, and a little chat with Joe; mad dancing to pop hits and a feeling that, in one of Britain's darkest hours, we may all be a part of something that could change things for the positive through sheer will of force.

The night in September that their album remarkably entered the UK chart at number 5, they played to 50 people at a rambunctious show at Spillers Records in Cardiffa typically IDLES thing to do. Their attention to their fans, their craft and their music is currently unequalledand you need to look back as far as Oasis or Nirvanamaybe The Libertines if you feel very generousto find a sense of genuine zeitgeist as tangible as it is on these nights. (Speaking of the Nirvana comparison and clear influenceit's extremely interesting to note, as someone did on the AFGang message board recently that it's taken us, culturally, 25 years to be able to shift from "I hate myself and I want to die" to Samaritans' marked inversion, "I love myself and I want to try.")

What's even more rare is a band as brutal as this allowing themselves to be so accessible-willing to talk toxic masculinity, display their vulnerability and sensitivity in a way that doesn't often occur in rock music.

Saturday in Glasgow is as unhinged as you'd hope"We'd be nothing without you," snarls Talbot, "Fucking nothing." They tear through another set that's thrilling, moving, unifying; their cover of Solomon Burke's "Cry to Me" the perfect partner to "Samaritans," a serrated paean to the positivity of male openness. It's huge, it's heartbreaking and as the band thrash furiously across the stage, the crowd doing similarly, we're crossing a bridge between rock music and semi-religious experienceyet all grounded in community and humanity.

A few days later, Birmingham has the most raucous AFGang meet-upmaybe 80 fans filling the local pub screaming along to IDLES tunes on the jukebox hours prior to the show (much to the delight of the pub's regulars, no doubt); but Brighton, surprisingly, has the worst turnout of aggressive, violent men of the whole tour. Self-professed "pit generals" shoving people into danger and calamity, drunken lads turning a beautiful show into a threatening proposition. These people aren't IDLES fansthey're classic, old school testosterone-driven dullards who want to enforce their physical presence on anyone smaller than them. Mostly women, of course.

When Talbot mentions in Oxford, during a jackhammerlevel intensity set, that a friend of his was touched inappropriately at the Brighton show it comes as little surprise to me or those I've hung out with recently. In Brighton Talbot repeats "Fuck the pit" and shows his middle finger to those insisting on creating a circle pit for every damn songyet there's little we or he can do about the mosh often being an inherently unfriendly place for anyone smaller or differently abled from the large men leading it. The inclusion of a Safe Gigs For Women stall at each of these shows only goes to show the contradiction in the band's intent and some "fans" actions.

Back in London, prior to closer "Rottweiler" Talbot notes Bikini Kill's heroic Kathleen Hanna as an inspiration and, as he does on several nights of this tour insists that it's time for "Girls to the front!" His exhaustion with the overtly macho behavior of a small element of the crowd is only matched by his growing appreciation of the rest of the audience-at both Brighton and Oxford he's beaming throughout, cracking wise and using the band's trademark dark humor in a self-deprecating and empathic way.

The relentless energy levels, if anything, only increase across these seven showseven when Talbot admits to exhaustion and actually takes a tumble from the stage at Brighton they really don't miss a beat. It feels almost like a missionary group, belting through Brexit Britain, breathing hope into the broken.

In a media world that eats itself as it endeavors to mislead, IDLES are a rare thing-a genuine, honest, understanding and remarkable force for good and change with their fans supporting their values of socialism, feminism, and racial equality every step of the way. The band seem to demand self-improvement and simultaneous self-acceptance on the one hand, while urging themselves and their listeners to resist and overcome oppression of any kind on the other.

That they are also the best, most addictive, and overwhelmingly brilliant rock band in the world right now also doesn't harm. This has been a couple of weeks of some of the finest shows your correspondent has witnessed in nearly 30 years of gig-going and it's fair to say that the people we met, mingled with, and grew to know over these shows were among the finest humans you could meet in a lifetime. There may be a long way to go and a long road to travel but at least with IDLES we can be confident we're on the right path.

"Long Live the Open Minded."

www.idlesband.com

For this review we attended the following shows:

Tuesday 16th October - SWX, Bristol
Thursday October 18th - Kentish Town Forum, London
Friday October 19th - Ritz, Manchester
Saturday October 20th - QMU, Glasgow
Friday October 21st - Institute, Birmingham
Saturday October 27th - Concorde 2, Brighton
Monday October 29th - Academy, Oxford

Support Under the Radar on Patreon.




Comments

Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published

URL

Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.