Supported by Heavy Lungs, featuring THE Danny Nedelko on vocals (we’ll get to him in a moment), is it? Could it be HIM? Either way, he’s writhing semi naked like a punk Marc Almond, they seem like a lovely bunch of lads. And an affable warm up troupe – but I’m now on their bandcamp enjoying them in their own right. But I have to move on.
A punctual opening. IDLES don’t mess about. Crowd goes wild. It feels like a homecoming, because lets face it, the idea of home is becoming a little unrecognisable for some of us right now. Perhaps many gigs might feel like a return to your people.
We open with Colossus, a cathartic, swelling avalanche of a song, and the audience quickly respond with every line, every rallying chorus with the communal religiosity it demands. Transfiguring pain into triumph is the modus operandi for Joe Talbot’s band, who he frequently thanks as his support network through very difficult years that would have turned most into cynical wrecks. For this reason, IDLES is my band of the moment. It’s hard not to write that I turned up to this gig for personal reasons when there is a feeling of communal therapy in the air. And I’m not alone. IDLES are the release we need for these testing times. Often dismissed as an angry band, their music is funny, therapeutic, arty, riotous and extremely tight. And it was all of these things on Saturday night.
Glasgow’s gig was an emotional sauna. Folk arrived slowly, very quietly, were polite, everyone was welcome. Then the ‘treatment’ began. The warmth was initially comforting and then the sweat started to pour and toxins were released. It’s impressive that the momentum was kept up because it was relentless. And the targets that Talbot set in his sights were picked off through the night – and lets be clear, some of them included himself. But it’s a whistlestop tour of all that is awful about this pre-Brexit era. Here were some themes:
“This is our institutional NHS song” (a fantastic rendition of Divide and Conquer).
“This is our hedgefund banker song” (Gram Rock)
“This is our song about how immigrants make Britain a better place” (The anthemic Danny Nedelko)
“This is a song about about Mothers” (the no-introduction needed Mother)
“This is a song about the worst decision our country has ever made” (Blighty-wants-her-blue-passport, not quite sure what the union’s for GREAT)
And so on…
And I was stood there wracking my brains, thinking… is this literally the only angry righteous band out there at the moment? Is this the only antidote to the fawning BBC? Is this, actually, the most mainstream impassioned voice that dare challenge the so-called status quo whether it is Islamophobia (‘Islam didn’t eat your hamster’ on GREAT) or channelling Yoda for a balanced rhetoric on immigration via Danny Nedelko (‘Fear leads to panic, Panic leads to pain, Pain leads to anger, Anger Leads to hate’). Is it??? Because I feel failed by our representatives, aghast at the s**tstorm we are being flung into and held hostage by smug elites. I want the angry left and I’m a Buddhist!
Sometimes I forget that these are songs not manifestos, and you might argue that the personal should be removed from the political in their work – but it can’t, it’s wound together and Talbot is a
kind of product of both, his personal background of being bullied is no different to the bullying of the increasing right wing world.
There’ll always be a warm welcome for IDLES in Glasgow with its history of trade unionism and socialist leaders of the past – something that is still tangible for a lot of (quite older) members of the audience. And whilst there’s crowdsurfing, beer thrown, folks on stage, there’s real heart here tonight and in the audience and in this very tired and very emotional reviewer.