It’s not very often that a band tears apart the British music scene like IDLES have. After months upon months of garnering reputation, the release of their sophomore album Joy As An Act Of Resistance, has propelled the Bristol band to international acclaim. While bands often develop a fan base, it is rare that they can develop a community in the way IDLES have. After sharing the Best Breakthrough Band at the Q Awards with Goat Girl two nights previously, they make a much anticipated pit-stop to a sold-out crowd at the Manchester Ritz.
Support came from fellow Bristol band Heavy Lungs, who deliver raucous, punk to an already pulsating crow. A highlight is their latest single ‘Blood Brother’, a touching song about the comforts of companionship, dedicated to IDLES frontman Joe Talbot.
The already pulsating room begins to fill to the brim, as does the excitement for the headliners. Armed with an array of impressive facial hair, the band walk onto the stage as overpriced pints are flung in ode to the Bristolians and the caustic instrumentation of opening track ‘Colossus’ rings like a warning sound round the room. The build up erupts into chaos as Talbot screams “It’s coming”, followed by a brief standstill of silence, until the crowd detonates around the venue. Moving into ‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’, the witty, satiric track has the same reaction, with frontman Joe Talbot creating a visceral and sweat drenched atmosphere, where, for one night, people can consume themselves in the community of bodies.
It’s at an IDLES gig that you realise the futility of a ‘no crowd surfing’ sign, as bodies begin to descend above the bobbing heads of the crowd, including various members of IDLES themselves. ‘Mother’ from Brutalism, sends the crowd into ecstasy, with the tagline of “the best way to kill a Tory is to read and get rich” being bellowed across the room.
Talbot takes a minute to speak about how much he “f**king loves” immigrants, which ignites reverberations of cheers around the room. He then goes on to dedicate ‘Danny Nedelko’ to the titular frontman of Heavy Lungs. As Talbot expresses “he’s made of bones, he’s made of blood, he’s made of flesh, he’s made of love, he’s made of you, he’s made of me, unity!”, it echoes the sense of togetherness felt in the venue tonight, between a ranged demographic of people in the audience.
Though they proclaim halfway through the night “we are not a punk band,” it’s hard to deny that there are strong elements of the subculture in their work, and looking at the crowd it brings about a sense of unity that permeates a movement such as punk. The diversity of the crowd is compelling, as it seems that something about IDLES, and the issues they discuss in their lyrics, resonates with a diverse demographic of people. As ‘Exeter’ begins, Joe champions everyone to join him on stage both literally and figuratively overcoming the barriers. A young girl takes Mark Boden’s guitar, while bodies thrash around the stage – it perfectly demonstrates the unity that IDLES advocate so much. Breaking down the barriers between fan and artist, it’s almost like one big celebratory party. It’s almost as though they are celebrating the positive aspects of the nation, rather than their own success as a band, with Talbot stopping throughout songs to dedicate portions of the set to organisations such as Safe Gigs For Women.
But it’s not all uplifting and liberating: Talbot strips away the mask of vexation to reveal his own emotional struggles on tracks like ‘1049 Gotho’, which he introduces as a song about being depressed. It’s hard to imagine someone with so much stage presence and energy being so vulnerable, but this just solidifies the tropes of toxic masculinity that IDLES speak about so intuitively. It’s a deeply moving part of the night, and solidifies that the band are not a one-dimensional act.
But the most compelling thing about IDLES is that though they create conversation on important social issues such as toxic masculinity and immigration, they add more than a dash of humour to their live shows. From guitarist Mark Boden prancing about the stage and riding the way of the crowd topless like a reject from a pop-punk band, to the bizarre cover of Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas’, they ensure that life doesn’t always have to be about the dreary things, and neither does music.
The snarling ‘Rottweiler’ closes the show, with an extended guitar solo as bodies ascend over the crowd and people make the most of the last 5 minute crowd surfing period. As Talbot screams “smash it, burn it, just burn the world, burn your house down”, it encapsulates just what IDLES have done to the British music scene in the past few months, producing a record which is both exciting and fun, yet meaningful. Here is a band that have attained the hype and have the talent and material to give it feet.