Hot off the heels of their massively acclaimed sophomore album, Joy As An Act of Resistance, IDLES played to a sold out crowd at The Empire and didn’t disappoint one bit! The band opened with “Colossus” to an ecstatic crowd in awe at their presence. The song was the slowest and one of the heaviest of the night, with a brooding and punchy bass carrying everything and Joe Talbot’s vocal stylings making him sound like a Post-Hardcore version of Billy Bragg. The track kicked into full swing towards the end, going to their signature style while the energy picked up from the front of the stage all the way to the balcony.
The band continued on with newer material by going into “Never Fight A Man With A Perm” - a biting commentary on toxic masculinity and the overt selfishness of people that are obsessed with the whole culture of being a “gym freak.” The live rendition was nothing short of raucous, going between no-wave stylings and modern Hardcore reminiscent of Iceage’s earlier works.
By the time they got to “Mother” off of their debut, Brutalism, the room was dripping with energy. As the crowd was moshing and chanting to their heavily political lyrics, I came across the biggest fault of the night and my view on the band as a whole - their lyrics and the harshness of what they convey.
Being no stranger to Punk as a whole and enjoying bands that are massively political (e.g. Parquet Courts, Gang of Four, Discharge, Flux of Pink Indians, etc), I find Joe Talbot’s lyricism to sometimes be incredibly preachy and a bit too in your face at times. It’s a massive blow because it’s the one thing that keeps me from truly enjoying them. I completely agree with what they have to say and I see why people resonate with them so much but it’s too much for me to stomach I suppose.
Throughout their 80 minute set, Idles ferociously played a bulk of their catalogue with such precision to the point they sound far better live than on record. The band had the crowd on the palm of their hands the entire time through the energy they were able to create from the get-go. There was multiple instances of stage banter that was organic as you can get, members walking / crowd surfing around the venue with instruments still in hand, crowd participation (they had someone from the crowd play the drums at one point) and off the cuff renditions of Living on a Prayer and All I Want For Christmas Is You.
I left the venue at the end of the night in a sweaty haze of pain and restlessness. I’m still in two minds of how I perceived everything as a whole; on one hand, I think they are one of the best live bands in the world right now, but on the other, I felt as if my opinion on them hadn’t changed at all. My thoughts on the night are middling, but they veer more towards pure enjoyment as opposed to boredom.
IDLES are probably the best live band in the UK. If you’re a fan of angry, socially aware punk music then go see them as soon as you can or regret it for the rest of your days.
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