27th March | Tramshed, Cardiff
Photos: Callum O’Keefe
Are IDLES Bristol or Cardiff? Now that’s the question… We’ve taken them as a Bristol band, as they were formed in our fair city, but it becomes evident from this gig in the grand Welsh capital that Wales also has a tenuous claim. Singer Joe Talbot was born in Newport, as he points out here (to a mixture of cheers and boos), but has Cardiff connections and points out his dad in the audience. “He only lives round the corner, get his address and all go back for a cup of tea.”
IDLES are cresting a wave right now. There seems no stopping this burst of ferocious energy and sonic power. Cardiff’s Tramshed is full to the rafters with sweaty expectation. Crows warm up with a big Velvets-infused noise, all booming inflections and their own barbed aural assault, but the really big noise is to come.
Building up with the brooding first chords from first track ‘Colossus’ from their second album, Joy As An Act Of Resistance, the whole place erupts as the tempo kicks in and they go straight into ‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm,’ the intense pogoing and moshing mirroring the onstage energy. People crowd surf, bodies surge like a 70s football terrace, beer and plastic glasses sail through the air. Years slip away.
The spirit of punk seers through their sound, an insistent unrelenting drum-and-guitar powerhouse, with Talbot’s cuttingly humorous and witheringly insightful social commentary on the modern condition – both general and personal – a shouted poetic polemic. Indeed his rasping vocal style takes its toll towards the end of the set, but the energy generated by band and audience seems to propel him on. Guitarist Mark Bowen’s guitar meanwhile propels itself out over the grasping hands of the audience at one point, as does Bowen himself on more than one occasion, cresting the crowd like a madman.
Bowen is a frenzied court jester onstage, his urgent manic playing marries with that of the proportionately ‘staider’ (as if there is any staid in this band!) fellow guitarist Lee Kiernan, the throbbing bass of big bearded Adam Devonshire and the frenetic engine-like drumming of Jon Beavis and urging their sound on.
It’s non-stop: a coruscating, addictive, exhilarating stream of anger and joy. Most numbers on Joy…are played and a large chunk of their first album Brutalism. The underclass anthemic – and there are anthems aplenty here – ‘I’m Scum’, the paean to the value of immigration ‘Danny Nedelko’, the pulsating ‘Great’ and ‘Mother’, with its chorus of “Mother…fucker!”, all go down a storm, everything goes down a storm. “God bless you Wales!” says Talbot.
“Don’t read The Sun, it’ll give you cancer,” he yells as they steam into ‘Television’, “about the fascist right-wing press.” Lyrics drip with venomous sarcasm and humour (“I sing at fascists ’til my head comes off, I’m Dennis Skinner’s Molotov”). Some of the crowd are onstage, Bowen is on a speaker banging a drum as penultimate song, ‘Exeter’ scorches over us. They end in the white-noise, feedback and guitar-screeching chaos of ‘Rottweiler’. Talbot leaves the stage. Bowen is screaming. A babble of mayhem. Blitzkrieg bop.
See IDLES’ inaugural In Stereo session here: