Photograph by Szymon Jastrzebski
“We are called Idles. That’s rhetoric for my ego. You know what we’re called”. This gig has sold months in advance, as this tour has everywhere. There are flyers galore for their headline summer show in Iveagh Gardens. That’s a 4000 capacity gig so they are working hard to sell it. I’ve seen Idles once before at Bearded Theory but this will be my first experience of them in an indoor environment. On a side note, for anyone booking tickets for Vicar St., if you are too old for moshing or just not into it, book the balcony. The view is better and there is always space to move without being bumped and jostled. Plus, there’s a dedicated bar and clean toilets.
The 1100 ticketholders are slow to turn up so it’s 20:30 before we get a glimpse of support band, Crows. The pounding toms, heavy bass groove, and the practiced disdain of lead singer James Cox, lend credence to those comparisons with Joy Division and Killing Joke that you may have read about them. I mention it to Szymon and he peels off his jumper revealing a Killing Joke tour t-shirt. Pointing to Cox, he shouts “Jaz Coleman, Junior!” over the controlled feedback of Steve Goddard’s heavily effected guitar. Crows are indebted to shoegaze too, especially in the guitar department, except that these guys have proper choruses. Cox abandons his twin microphone stands to mingle with the audience. He makes his way through the now-full room, almost reaching the seated area at the back, and I realise I’ve stopped dancing for the first time since they came on. The Bastard Sons of Jaz Coleman and Ian Curtis are on to something good.
Idles come on in darkness to a pop stars’ welcome. An arty lightshow introduces the stripped-back intro of ‘Colossus’ that builds to a crescendo while the crowd sings every word back and guitarist Mark Bowen stalks the stage in his boxers. The crowdsurfing starts in earnest for ‘I’m Scum’ as Bowen and fellow guitar player, Lee Kiernan, take turns mounting the barrier. The pair meet in the middle of the crowd for the breakdown of ‘Exeter’ and as they make their way back to the stage there’s an impromptu, a capella rendition of Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’. It’s quite bizarre to hear a thousand people sing Christmas songs in April but it’s definitely memorable. As it is a few minutes later, when the same crowd are chanting along to the band's musings on the nature and origins of sexual violence in the bridge of ‘Mother’.
Below our balcony spot, the floor surges and seethes. ‘Well Done’ inspires pogoing at the same time as singalongs, while others are simply caught up in the groove. Singer Joe Talbot refers to his past drug use and suddenly the pronouncements of positivity and affirmation make more sense. During ‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’, Talbot parts the crowd, like Moses or Sacred Reich, and has the two sides of the audience face each other. “Wall Of Death is for arseholes”, he says, “This is a Wall Of Love”. Whatever your opinion of Idles’ philosophy, it’s refreshing to hear a band that has one; philosophy needs more mirrorballs anyway.
I haven’t got their latest album yet but I’m going to rectify that after tonight’s show. The new songs they played tonight like ‘Love Song’ and the Solomon Burke cover ‘Cry To Me’ are great tunes. The new stuff doesn’t diverge greatly from the direction of Brutalism but are up to the standard set by the likes of ‘Divide And Conquer’ and ‘Heel/Heal’. I’m already looking forward to their next Irish gig in July. See you there!