Into Music Live Review: Idles
Venue: Glasgow Barrowland
Date: 03 February 2022
It’s often said that Glasgow’s West End is where it’s at and while it is undoubtedly laden with cool bars and venues, at the opposite end of town, the East End is inherently miles better. There, I’ve said it. While I know that will divide opinion, consider this. The East End hosted the prestigious talents of James Grant, Norman Blake and Bernard Butler (at St.Luke’s) on Sunday (see the Into Creative review here), the green and white disco lights of Paradise had 60,000 folk dancing with delight on Wednesday and then Idles performed a blistering three night residency at the best venue in the world, the Barrowland. Kinda difficult to top that!
The Idles gig was originally planned to promote the release of their third album, Ultra Mono, however Covid came along and the show had to be postponed until now. Meanwhile, the band ploughed on and recently put out a new album in Crawler and the set was liberally sprinkled with songs across their entire back catalogue.
One thing that you are guaranteed when watching an Idles gig is 100% commitment. No turning up and going through the motions for this band. The effort they put in is bettered by none and delivered with an off-the-scale intensity. Colossus kicked things off, a menacing slow burner that built and built before Jon Beavis’s drums came in, heavy and foreboding, Adam Devonshire’s bass rumbled while the twin guitars of Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan duelled vehemently as Joe Talbot’s vocal spat out lyrics telling tales of alcoholism and repeating the sins of his father.
Early on I see something I’ve never witnessed at a gig. Talbot asked the crowd in the middle to go to the sides, left and right. It was like a parting of the Red Sea as the band played on, a runway of sorts created before the song combusted, the crowd coming together, pogoing and bouncing in unison. From my vantage point, it was some experience but I can only imagine what it would be like to see it from the stage. A sight to behold.
Mother was an absolute highlight, Talbot rasped out the lyrics the best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich. He has a point. We are currently governed by a sycophant bunch of crooks and fucking far-right liars, hellbent on retaining power, intent on imposing continued austerity on the poorest people on this island, persecuting immigrants and asylum seekers, while offering contracts to their mates to make billions out of the Coronavirus pandemic. Levelling up? Don’t make me laugh. But here’s the thing, as the lyrics in Mother state, I know nothing, I’m just sitting here looking at pretty colours. Where’s the fight. Where’s the anger. Where are the demonstrations. Where are the rioters? Time for people to get their head out of their arses and stand up to the charlatans running the country. Artists like Idles, Billy Bragg, Manic Street Preachers and The Media Whores get it, but the U.K. needs a revolution. And now.
One of the support acts Jehnny Beth (who was fantastic) joined the band for Ne Touche Pas Moi, an exhilarating song about consent and space. In the week when Raith Rovers FC employed a rapist, the song was especially relevant, ’cause your body is your body, and it belongs to nobody but you.
Idles perhaps missed a trick with The Beachland Ballroom, the lead single from Crawler, when I felt they could have introduced it, for one night only as The Barrowland Ballroom. That aside, the glitterball sparkled as the band delivered a soul classic, Bowen’s keyboard twinkled and Talbot’s heartfelt vocal showcased the band’s ability to mix it up, and then some.
New track The Wheel, with it’s rockabilly vibe was played to perfection, Talbot eulogized can I get a hallelujah? Late on, I’m Scum saw Bowen and Kiernan venture into the crowd, the latter played guitar down to back of the venue while the former was hoisted above the crowd as he sang a medley of Scottish bands lyrics including Texas, The Proclaimers, Simple Minds, Belle & Sebastian and Travis before Talbot came in with All I Want For Christmas Is You and The Detroit Spinners Working My Way Back To You Babe. Those were the small vignettes that made a truly remarkable gig and it was lovely.
Idles are a band who wear their heart on their sleeve. Yes, they are brash but they are also bold and, above all, they are relevant. Set closing Danny Nedelko being a case in point, a song about immigration, humanity and the simple beauty of people, the polar opposite of the Tories constant stream of hate, misinformation and political self preservation. Cherish them.