By James Welch
After releasing their album Joy as an Act of Resistance, heavy rock band (‘we are not fucking punk’) Idles very quickly went off to tour America. In the interim, they’ve managed to accrue a devoted following dedicated to spreading the bands message of love and acceptance. Returning to England with fellow Bristolian band Heavy Lungs in tow, you can really feel the sense their fans don’t just like this band; they quite literally need them to exist. Rock City, as I’m sure any Idles fan will be unsurprised to learn, was no exception. The sold-out concert really felt that way, as people packed themselves onto the balcony and balanced precariously on small sections of stairs just to get a slightly clearer view of a band that means so much to so many people.
The first song Colossus immediately begins with the two lead guitar sounds that seamlessly blend together in a way that can only come from years of perfecting their aggressive yet playful sound. The pounding album opener explodes into an energetic coda that turns the entire floor of Rock City into a huge mosh-pit chanting the phrase ‘concrete to leather’ over and over, with the intensity of a head clearing primal scream. If the idea of a floor-filling mosh goes counter to the love-n-respect filled message Idles preach, then take what you will from front man Joe Talbot’s order that there be ‘some fucking women in there’.
After a massive smile and wave to the audience from Talbot, the band went straight into Never Fight a Man with a Perm and Mother, two songs that need very little introduction and that the audience utterly lap up. ‘This is for all the scumbags’ elicits a huge cheer as the band go into I’m Scum, which is probably their most overtly political tune. Don’t let that put you off however, as it also has a dirty jungle-like bass-line and stunning chorus that makes it near impossible not to dance.
Danny Nedelko probably gets the greatest response, although the responses to the rest of the songs aren’t far behind. ‘This is about how much I fucking love immigrants’ yells Talbot, which tells you everything you need to know about the song. The feeling that Idles are doing something utterly necessary is no more apparent than when 2000 people are chanting the chorus to this seminal piece.
An inspired cover of All I Want for Christmas Is You reminds the audience that even when broaching such difficult subject matter, they still want to have a great time; this energy spills out into the audience right up until the final song finishes. Exeter is introduced with Talbot expressing his preference for the North which did elicit a few confused faces clearly holding in the urge to shout ‘this is the midlands’, but after the song finishes the crowd definitely understands the sentiment he’s trying to convey.
Well Done is second to last, and it is a perfect example of the first album’s simultaneous anger and biting sense of humor, as if the entire performance itself wasn’t already proof enough. Rottweiler ends the night the same way it ends the album, a perfectly heavy rock song filled with enough energy to knock down a building, something Talbot actually suggests mid song. As the night comes to a close, we’re left with a bassist and guitarist that refuse to quit, only doing so when they seem to have given us everything they possibly can.
Next up for the band is a tour of Europe that will no doubt keep them skyrocketing, but please come home soon boys. This country needs you.