Make no mistake, Idles are undoubtedly the most exciting band in the UK right now. In the Queen Margaret Union, in the hipster stronghold of deep west end Glasgow, one of the best gigs in years took place.
Idles played to a packed QMU with their new album, Joy as an Act of Resistance – the crowd numbers no doubt enjoyed a late surge given the bands’ recent increase in coverage on the likes of 6music and Later… with Jools Holland. The Bristol band probably wouldn’t appreciate being put into any one single genre, but they undoubtedly fit most neatly into the world of punk; and the moshing, pogoing crowd reflected that.
They are loud, lively and offer up uber-lefty lyrics by the bucketload. Politics at gigs can often be awkward and cringeworthy, but if it’s done through the songs and there is no prolonged preaching, it’s usually fair game, and a sure way to wring out a couple of extra cheers from an inevitably like-minded crowd.
It always helps when the contemporary issues mentioned are dealt with in a comedically caustic way. “Wombic charm of the Union Jack, as he cries at the price of a bacon bap,” from recent single ‘Great’ being a prime example. “Why don’t you like reggae, even Tarquin likes reggae, Mary Berry likes reggae,” from ‘Well Done’ being another. I could go on.
Modern punk bands can often be guilty of trying to dig up an atavistic punk sound that leaves them sounding noriginal, uninteresting and outdated. This isn’t the case with Idles. Every lyric and riff are delivered with absolute ferociousness and sincerity but are to skip on pomposity.
Again, it might not be a description appreciated by many rock bands but there is a cleanliness to the production of the album. However, there was nothing pristine about the live performance. Joe Talbot’s roared vocals clamber on top of a pile of gorgeous guitar brutality. The band do everything they can to turn their auditory force into something physical to smack you in the face with.
This was an incredible gig. And I don’t use that word lightly. The outstanding ‘Colossus’opened the set and had me worried with the amount of stagnancy amongst the crowd. Thankfully it only served as a filter to get the mannequins and posers to one side while the entire centre of the floor turned into a relentless mosh pit for the rest of the gig. This was the type of lively Glasgow crowd that bands reminisce about years later. A phenomenon that seemed to be worryingly fading away.
All credit to Idles for stirring the crowd with humungous songs like ‘Mother’ and ‘I’m Scum,’and thank the gig Gods that the crowd responded. All moshing, all energy, all positive. The crowd thinned near the finale of the night as a few dozen punters were invited on stage before all were sent off into the night dripping in sweat. I reiterate, Idles are the most exciting band in the UK right now. Now excuse me while I wring out my t-shirt.
review by Luke Hawkins