Music for the Doomed Generation.
A friend once described seeing IDLES perform live was something akin to being held aggressively in a headlock, while also being kissed affectionately on the brow, from an old friend… a sentiment that is not by any means a far stretch of the imagination for tonight’s show.
Over the past fifteen years IDLES have nurtured a swarthy following based on compassion, empathy and the hunger for protest, to question authority and to find strength in unity. It’s no surprise then that the band sold out three consecutive nights at The Barrowland Ballroom.
Emerging from a fresh wave of lockdown restrictions, there is an eager crowd of old and young alike queuing down the street to get inside all sharing stories about when they last seen Joe Talbot and co. play on Scottish Soil (this evenings show has been on hiatus for two years) there is an abundance of joy already bubbling under the surface that makes this evening show feel very much like a homecoming.
The crowd are plunged into darkness, and the band enter on stage, Glasgow’s very own favourite chant of endearment starts up with ‘Here we, here we, here we f*$king go!’ however, is quickly engulfed by the opening bars of ‘Colossus’, which sets the tone perfectly.
‘Turn up the lights, I wanna see you, split the crowd’ second track in and frontman Joe Talbot is already preaching messages of love and benevolence, ‘in the pit we look after one another’.
He lurches into ‘Car Crash’, giving Glasgow the first taste of fresh material from their latest album ‘Crawler’. The track is an otherworldly stomp through demented screaming, distorted guitars and a bassline that will rattle every hollow bone in your body. With the same easy to participate in chorus as earlier IDLES material it’s an instant crowd pleaser.
A few tracks later and Talbot is back to delivering plaudits to the crowd about why Glasgow is his favourite city to play ‘This is the best city to play live, I love you, and for anyone who says I say that wherever I go, I don’t, check the footage’ a brief analogy later about how he believes he was conceived in Glasgow and the audience are ready to hand this man the keys to the city.
Next, he beckons tonight’s support act Jehnny Beth, former Savages frontwoman on stage and they duet on ‘Ne Touche Pas Moi’ a song about making gigs safe for woman, that’s sees both exuding the guttural wail of ‘Consent’ over and over again.
Another brief monologue about the NHS and how it’s the best thing our country ever did for the working classes ‘Divide & Conquer’ is dedicated to everyone who has ever worked for the public services for the country. Is a snarling reminder of just how much of a threat, this national institution actually is under.
Intentionally placed right in the middle of the set, personal favourite, from the new album ‘The Beachland Ballroom’ offers a moment of repose from the high paced fervour (and also the blinding strobe) to showcase the bands more subtler capabilities. The song is a slow waltz, full of faded seaside glamour. The Barrowlands own infamous disco ball, studding the room with dazzling lights, created a truly captivating moment.
This was swiftly replaced as energy levels peaked with ‘Never Fight a Man with a Perm’. A grinding socialist behemoth that has the whole room bouncing along. It’s moments like this that it’s easy to see exactly how IDLES have curated such an avid following, it’s a collective donkey kick to far right sentiment and fascism.
The band play a set for over two hours solid, interlaced with gems such as; ‘Mother, Crawl!, MTT 420 RR’ But it’s songs like ‘I’m Scum’ complete with running man moves from Talbot that the crowd are eager to lap up.
Another tender moment where Talbot asks his drummer to ‘get low’ to turn around and see that there are thousands of Glaswegian’s who have also ‘gotten low’ by squatting on the floor of the old ballroom. ‘See, this is why you are the best’, ‘Danny Knedelko’ follows, seeing a room full fans thundering the chorus, along with its pro-immigration theme is something that would warm the cockles of even the most staunch Tory defenders wooden heart.
Clearly having a good time, guitarist Mark Bowen seized this opportunity to jump into the crowd for an impromptu, somewhat bizarre yet brilliant tribute to Scotland. This came in the form of a seemingly unrehearsed, medley of songs that included; Lewis Capaldi, Edwin Collins, Texas, Travis and The Proclaimers… and ended with Talbot chiming in with The Spinners, ‘Working My Way Back To You’, which fantastically pleased the audience.
With no intention of playing an encore the band once again express their love of the city and thank the audience for ‘carrying them’ and helping the band grow over the past decade into what they are today.
Set closer ‘Rottwiler’ allows for once last voyage into the loud, swirling distorted yet danceable frenzy before they crowd empty on to the streets, many of whom I have no doubt will be back for the following two sold out shows.