This past Thursday, I made my long overdue return to the O2 Academy in Liverpool for the first time in what must be two years (having previously had my mind blown by the uber-rad Turbowolf).
Leaving my beloved Manchester behind (and a sold out show happening the very same night from the brilliant Moonlandingz), the trip would all be worth it for finally getting to see band of the moment IDLES.
Heading in just prior to their arrival, the Academy was absolutely heaving. Punters were knocking about in every nook and cranny, jumped up with excitement and having the crack, a lot of them already wearing the merch ahead of show time (and who can blame them –I had to grab a shirt myself before heading home!)
Having sorted out last minute checks and the like, the lads in the band all left the stage minutes before they were due to go on, save for frontman Joe Talbot. Pacing the stage, he acknowledged the odd shout here and there but seemingly concentrated on the upcoming matter at hand and the jumped up crowd before him.
The atmosphere in the Academy was almost palpable, with the crowd loud as anything prior to anything even happening. Whoops and hollers are heard, chatter is high and there’s a genuine buzz amongst the congregation, high above your usual gig excitement. A punter screamed something toward the stage and another guy jumped right in with a retort. Smiles all around. I spied a lad wearing a MACC LADS shirt. Here we go.
Guitarist Lee Kiernan returned to stage followed by the rest of the band, with his long locks in curlers – apt given the location. His fellow guitarist Mark Bowen is shirtless (obviously), though readers will be saddened to hear that the trousers stayed on this time. It’s potential enemy territory for our friends from the South, but everyone’s friends here.
‘Heel/Heal’, the explosive opener from debut album ‘Brutalism’ is just as explosive here, sending the gathering of people smack bang at the front into pure frenzy. Thrashing and moshing about, people hit the deck within seconds. It’s quickly followed up by ‘Faith In The City’ and it struck me as weird to see people shooting their hands forward and singing word for word the harrowing lyrics concerning Uncle Noel and the “…cancer in his brain”. But fair fucks, it’s hard not to get caught up in the buzz!
A lad to my right, creeping close to his 40’s, couldn’t help himself from getting involved in the pit every time it kicked off. Each time he thought he was out, IDLES pulled him right back in and he subsequently lost his shit. Practically everyone is losing their shit at this point. Only a few songs in and it was evident why everyone has jumped on the IDLES bandwagon.
A punter behind shouts for ‘Two Tone’, a single from way back in IDLES oeuvre. He’s jokingly called out by frontman Joe in hilarious fashion. The naughty party is asked to speak with him after the show for his request, before things proceed to their latest single – the anthemic ‘Mother’. Anthemic is a word not used lightly – Literally every word is sang back at the band with such vigour from the crowd, such is the hold it’s got on people since its release in late February.
‘1049 Gotho’ and ‘Divide and Conquer’ are two major highlights from both Brutalism and the set, the latter being pure dirt – a stormer long before the vocals kick in. Sweat pisses off guitarist Mark as he thrashes about and puts in the graft, and I find it hard not to get completely taken in by the stage presence of IDLES.
At the announcement that ‘QUEENS‘ is coming up – the opener from their 2015 EP MEAT – some lad in the crowd shouts out something about Joe being a queen, to which he point blank states that he definitely is a queen and proud of it too. The punishing QUEENS makes way for the stupendously catchy ‘Well Done’ – lead single from the new album and a song that has landed them all manner of praise, due in part to its acerbic shouts from frontman Joe, frantic chorus and constant mentioning of Mary Berry.
Before knocking it on the head, after a bit of back and forth Joe announces that he’s an “immigrant and happy” before smashing into ‘Rottweiler’, their swan song. The 100 mile an hour closer screams through. In a lovely moment, Joe goes over to each of his band mates and dishes out hugs and kisses whilst they keep playing, before leaving stage with his near empty bottle of whatever it was he was drinking. The prolonged, closing flurry from the remaining IDLES is utter wall-of-noise brilliance and I’m soon thinking that these lads would quite easily stand up as a noise band in their own right.
BBC Radio 6 Music recently had Brutalism as their album of the day and the Bristolian quintet smashed through a near enough sell out tour over the past month across the country. Heading back to the train station for Manchester, I noticed that various people sharing the same route were excitedly bearing an IDLES shirt or bit of merch in hand, and a couple of lads give me the nod spying a shirt clenched in my grasp too. It’s clear as day that IDLES are on the up and you’d be daft to miss them during their journey.
Listen to a host of bangers from the new album ‘Brutalism‘ in our Now Playing Spotify Playlist!