IDLES – Kentish Town Forum, 18th October 2018
One of the true breakout artists of the year, Bristol’s IDLES have (somewhat) against the odds become a revelatory experience in the UK. Then again, given the current political and social climate in the country, they are not a band we deserve but certainly one we need to give us hope through this difficult time.
The punk old guard may sniff their noses, claiming this has both lyrically and musically been covered before, but the exact point is that Idles have come around at a time where their positive, left-wing, (re: “woke”) message is more prevalent than ever. So, perhaps it’s not so surprising after all that they’ve managed to capture the imaginations of a crowd that goes way beyond punk and, thanks to a certain recent TV performance, are now fairly ensconced into the wider public imagination.
Tonight’s performance at the Kentish Town Forum is the band’s biggest headline show to date and while seeing a much-hyped band at the peak of their powers can be an overwhelming experience for many, generally speaking, the band and crowd alike are in unison for the entirety of the night. Such shows can attract a few more casual and curious patrons who perhaps don’t know what they are in for, and while this can be noticed, there is a real passion amongst Idles’s fans which is duly reciprocated by the band.
Right from the off, with this year’s excellent sophomore record Joy As An Act of Resistance opener ‘Colossus’, the audience throng to and fro, swaying, sweating and singing almost every word with frontman Joe Talbot. The room almost reaches fever pitch very early on, as the band’s breakout single ‘Mother’ from their debut Brutalism soon follows, which sees the crowd whipped up into a hysterical frenzy, one that never really lets up throughout this performance.
As the show settles into its now well-established pace, the band display the incredible range of anthems they have already amassed in their short career. This year’s singles ‘Danny Nedelko’ – the track responsible for their current success – and ‘GREAT’ are truly life-affirming songs to share with a room of 2000-plus, all singing every word to this pro-immigration song as a direct expression against the current state of affairs, many with one eye towards Saturday’s anti-Brexit march, no doubt.
Elsewhere, the band hit a one-two punch of songs dealing with mental health and toxic masculinity in ‘1049 Gotho’ and ‘Samaritans’, deliberately placed together as companion pieces in the ongoing struggle of depression. Again, Idles aren’t the only band out there covering these issues, but there aren’t many who manage to turn these subjects into such riveting call-to-arms, and it is here that their power remains.
As the band hit the final strides of their set, they invite members of the crowd to join them on stage and share their instruments on _Brutalism_ highlight ‘Exeter’, after the band have taken turns to play in the crowd, which exerts the sort of beautiful chaos that punk music should truly imagine. Before the band’s final knockout punch, Talbot reinvigorates the classic Riot Grrrl mantra of “girls to the front” – made famous by Bikini Kill and Le Tigre’s Kathleen Hanna – to give the crowd’s female contingent a chance to have some space to enjoy the show, which from this observer’s vantage point the pit seemingly obliges. With everyone in position, the band blast through ‘Well Done’ and ‘Rottweiler’ to close out their set, with Talbot exclaiming “we don’t do encores” which becomes pretty obvious by the carnage that’s left on stage once IDLES are done.
Whether this turns out to be a flash-in-the-pan occurrence remains to be seen, but at this exact moment in time, IDLES can be comfortably described as one of the most exciting and vital acts we have in the UK right now, and the mutual swell of pride exerted by both the band and crowd is clear proof of this feeling. Either way, this was a special show by a special band who can be attributed with giving the country something to believe in again.
Photo by Kieran Webber