27th March 2019
Cardiff felt the full force of the latest IDLES tour. Ioan Humphreys was crushed at the front.
It’s an otherwise nondescript Wednesday night in Cardiff. Yet, across the river towards the outskirts of this lovely city, lies one of its live music jewels. The Tramshed is relatively new compared to some of Cardiff other renowned venues, yet it’s hosted a multitude of quality bands over its years. This writer alone has seen The Buzzcocks, Shellac and The Dillinger Escape Plan (supported by the off the scale amazing Ho9909) in the last few years. Tonight there is a queue forming around it’s corner and there is a buzz surrounding the venue. That is because the mighty IDLES are due to take the stage in an hour or so time at a sold out Tramshed and the atmosphere is absolutely electric.
This is the third date on their latest tour and several recent tweets from the band have urged early comers to check out their support Crows. Crows are one of the latest signings to Balley Records that is run by IDLES’s Joe Talbot and Mark Bent (who also put out IDLES’ ‘Meat’ EP and their shocking brilliant debut album ‘Brutalism’)
Making my way into the packed venue, Crows have just plugged in and have started the pummelling drumming that runs throughout their first track Silver Tongues. Their lead singer prowls the stage until the vocals come in and the disparate, out of synch delivery is refreshing to say the least. The noise builds and builds and the crowd just absolutely lap it up. Follow ups ‘Demeanour’ and ‘Wednesday’s Child’ are again slow building post punk noise exercises that continue to soar and soar until they deafen the crowd into submission. Again, by the time set closer ‘Swollen eyes’ has pummelled this VERY receptive crowd into a terrifying wall of sound submission, the band leave making way for IDLES.
The electric atmosphere shows no way of abating as the stage clears and the lights start to dim. Jon, Dev, Bobo and Lee take to the stage and the opening bars of ‘Colossus’ get this tightly packed crowd ready and willing to give it’s all. And as Joe finally climbs the stage ready for his vocal parts, it’s clear that this night is going to be a special one.
Once the slow build, then chaotic brilliance of ‘Collossus’ fades, the brilliantly titled ‘Never Fight a Man With a Perm’ starts up and the crowd is 100% behind this band. ‘I’m Scum’ follows quickly as does the version of fan favourite ‘Well Done’. ‘Queens’ off their debut EP is very much welcomed by both diehard fans and newcomers alike with its refrain of “stop taking photos of yourselves”. “Great” and “Danny Nedelko” follow and are very much in the forefront of everyone’s’ mind as the latest instalment of the clusterfuck that is Brexit is being played out in the commons as we speak. “Divide and Conquer” is passionately introduced by a visibly moved Joe as a paean and war cry to the NHS and its saving.
“1049 Gotho” and “Love Song” in particular are stand out examples of what IDLES do so brilliantly. The standard verse chorus verse set up is subverted to include stop start sections and pregnant pauses within the song. Hence, the crowd’s delight at the pause after “be my wife” in Love Song” which creates yet another level of tension and an excuse to go absolutely fucking wild.
What happens next pretty much sums up what I love about IDLES. “Stendhal Syndrome” is introduced as “an old song” that they haven’t played for ages. Joe admits that he’s not too sure of the lyrics and versus as he introduces the track. What other band can you think of would throw an unrehearsed song into a set list as scrutinised as IDLES? Personally, it’s one of my favourite IDLES tracks, so when they launch into it and hilariously fuck it up. Then rescue it half way through, seeing them interact with each other to overcome the fuckup is a joy to watch.
A momentary impasse occurs that leads into the inevitable “All I Want for Christmas Is You” cover which is universally embraced. Fan favourite “Mother” is an incendiary standout and has the whole venue bouncing yet again. “Samaritans” seems to unite and ignite the whole venue in its bombastic call and response set up which quite obviously touched people throughout its inception. And with its noisy surge and rally call of “this is why, this is why, this is why” the whole venue is absolutely bouncing and singing every syllable. Such a clever, poignant and incredibly powerful song.
‘Television’ is introduced with a “love your selves” before launching into one of the standout tracks from ‘Joy as a resistance’. Joe introduces ‘Exeter’ as a “a song about growing up in a shithole full of cunts” and is yet again another chance for Bobo and Ian to make the way into the crowd. Once back to the stage their instruments are given to members of the audience to carry on the song which they do with an enthusiasm shared with the crowd. Once the audience members are cleared from the stage, ‘Rottweiler’ closes proceedings and yet again, gets the whole crowd absolutely bouncing. Joe leaves the stage and the rest of the band are left to make an unholy racket that envelopes the crowd. Jon and Dev leave the stage to massive applause, leaving Bobo and Lee making noise with their effects boards. And after an ear bleeding crescendo of noise, they switch the boards off to an equally ear bleeding rapturous applause from this baying Crowd.
IDLES are an absolutely stunning band. Not only live, but on record too. The band dedicate songs to the NHS, their family and encourage people not to read The Sun (“it gives you cancer”). Their politics is obvious and there for everyone to see. They rally against social injustice, socioeconomic disparity, the insidious and blatant capitalist takeover of the NHS, xenophobia, racism, toxic masculinity and societies obsession with image and celebrity (see ‘Queens’ and ‘Television’). In short, IDLES’s heart has always been in the right place and they continue to be a musical force to be reckoned with. This is probably the last tour they will be able to do in venues this size, so if you can, catch them. Up close, personal and VERY sweaty. But if you can’t, I’m sure Lee and Bobo will be making their way through the crowd to see you at the back.