IDLES – Albert Hall, Manchester (3rd April)

Britain’s most important band.

The words on everybody’s lips are that IDLES have come from seemingly out of nowhere, to take the hearts of many with their poignant, political and empathetic brand of heavy post-punk music. The band had a 2018 that no one could’ve predicted with their sophomore release, ‘Joy As An Act of Resistance’ rocket strapping the band from bottom of the barrel bar room venues, to airy and grand spaces such as Albert Hall in Manchester.

It’s visibly obvious from the get go how meteoric the band’s rise has been as there’s nothing but breathing room as bodies piled into the space fit for a Sunday church sermon, a religious experience – an apt correlation between the reactions that are on show from the moment the band reach the stage.

The pulsating opening notes of ‘Colossus’ ring out, accompanied with frantic strobe lighting, bodies are flying forward as lead singer, Joe Talbot, calmly builds the anticipation before detonating an explosion of energy with ‘Mother’ shortly following. The boys from Bristol reciprocate the energy and combine into a cataclysm of explosive, emotive and joyful presence across the stage as the fans gleefully move to each infectious beat of the band’s anthemic back catalogue.

Never one to shy away from their political beliefs in their songs, Talbot is more than happy to echo their ideologies, loud and proud in a live setting, screaming “Long live the EU!” before bursting into ‘Great’ and then following on with, “From Britain’s biggest failure to our greatest achievement, this song is for the NHS!” before ‘Divide & Conquer’. Both statements were met with rapturous applause but the biggest reaction was reserved for the celebratory song about immigration, ‘Danny Nedelko’, as the crowd embrace each other, as if pulled together by the words, “My blood brother is an immigrant/A beautiful immigrant.”

The band’s political musings have come under scrutiny in recent times from certain bands embedded in the “punk” scene, described as class appropriation and unauthentic. While we can’t miss the fact that this is a band with 5 middle class lads from Bristol, authenticity in their songs come from the people who are connecting with them. The lyrics are not written to fan the flames of discontent but are meant to build a bridge between people of all backgrounds and to bring about a sense of community. This is increasingly hard to come by in such divisive times because of the nation’s current political unrest.

Tackling the political landscape is a tried and tested rule of creating music that connects on such a large scale, however it’s the band’s attempts at tackling more difficult but ever present subjects, such as depression and toxic masculinity that have earned them the highest praise. The song ‘1049 Gotho’ was written to try to express the difficulty in battling depression while ‘Samaritans’ looks at the mistakes of the patriarchy and history of toxic masculinity that we, as a generation need to change if we are to move forward.

The night is not without it’s lighthearted moments, IDLES are a band who know how to have fun on stage. Whether it’s Talbot’s cock-sure strutting and daft dancing or guitarists, Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan jumping into the crowd and up on to the balconies. Each moment, adding to the chaos and enthusiasm of the crowd. As they’re enthralled with each passing song, two members of the audience were even picked out to play ‘Exeter’ with the band.

Somewhere within the madness, the guitars are unhooked from the amps and an almost A capella version of hair metal lads, Bon Jovi’s – ‘Livin On A Prayer’ gets an impromptu airing out. Ending the night with one last rousing statement from Talbot, “Don’t read The Sun, it’ll give you cancer!” before the crowd become completely unglued for the band’s snarling final song of the night, ‘Rottweiler’.

IDLES are using their platform to help change the perception that sensitivity and empathy are weaknesses, and are instead using them as tools of expression to create an authentic sound, that is poignant and resonates with the young and older generations of punk music lovers. IDLES are currently on an upward trajectory with no signs of slowing down, it’s nights like this that help secure their mantle of Britain’s most vital band right now. Hopefully we won’t need them forever but while we do, long may they continue being the voice of the voiceless.

IDLES Setlist:

Faith in the City
I’m Scum
Divide & Conquer
Danny Nedelko
1049 Gotho
Love Song
Well Done
Date Night
Never Fight a Man With a Perm
(snippet of Misirlou by Dick Dale)
Where’s My Ice Cream
(Mark on vocals, Joe on guitar)

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