Idlewild | Shy Nature
Nottingham, Rescue Rooms
13th December 2015
Louder Than War’s Stephen Murphy went along to see revitalised Scottish legends, Idlewild, on the last night of their recent UK tour.
Whilst driving to Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms for tonight’s gig, I feel like a near-to-tears emotional wreck. Butterflies swoop and dive in my stomach, my sweaty palms feel like they’ve been coated in vaseline, and a million thoughts race through my mind. You see, from 1998 to 2002, Idlewild were a musical love. A passion that lasted four happy years. An affair that I thought would never end, but then for reasons I can’t even remember, I stopped caring (and buying and listening), and Idlewild became the equivalent of an ex-partner – unthought of and no longer yearned for. However, as is the way with ex’s, the thought of seeing the band again has brought unexpected feelings to the surface. Could this once fine-romance be rekindled??
One thing in Idlewild’s favour, and something that definitely improves the chance of a happy reconciliation, is the fact that they’re not playing an acoustic set – something they’ve done on most other dates on the tour. For some reason, acoustic sets performed by bands that are ostensibly loud and amplified, send me into a blood boiling rage, so thankfully, London types – Shy Nature – are kicking off tonight’s Rescue Rooms proceedings.
There’s something undeniably special about Shy Nature. After a bit of an underwhelming opener – a haze of pleasant, if unmemorable indie-pop; something rather wonderful happens. Huge drums, intricate guitars and big sky scraping tunes kick in, and the band show that they’re actually the sons and heirs to the Coldplay crown of British rock classicism. Love or loath Chris Martin and company, they know how to write a tune, and shitting-nora, I think even they’d be jealous of the delightful musical shenanigans pouring out of Shy Nature like an magma-spewing volcano. But where Coldplay are as wholesome and straightforward as a granny cooked Sunday lunch, there’s a hint of off-kilter oddness about about Shy Nature – a trait that swerves them away from the horrors of becoming Radio 2/Radio X drive time fodder, and neutralises the urge to shower them in bottles of stale piss – sadly, a very real compulsion that characterises my relationship with Mr Martin and his merry men.
In a set of fantastic songs, Washout in-particular looms large with its jangly hooks and alternating time signatures. It’s just one of those tracks that seems to have always been part of your life, but conversely seems as fresh and new as a wailing, just-delivered infant. Add to the music the allure of a shaggy haired/honey voiced front man, and some of the finest facial hair in pop music, and it’s clear that Shy Nature are a band you can’t afford to let pass you by. Go see them/buy their records. You’ll not be sorry.
As soon as Idlewild hit the Rescue Rooms stage, I know that the love affair is potentially back on. By the time they play the second song of the night – a staggeringly good, You Held the World in Your Arms – I’m ready to suggest moving in together and starting a family. The talented scotch devils have got their hooks into me again…
It’s a struggle to think of any band from the last 20 years who have such mastery of both mucky-grunge and emotive folky-rock. From the angular punk swagger of When I Argue I See Shapes, to the arm-waving/lighter-flickering folk warmth of American English, Idlewild run the gauntlet of musical ideas and styles; and even the songs from albums I missed out on during our break-up, sound immediate, lovely and life affirming.
As the band continue through a career spanning set list, there are times when it seems front man Roddy Woomble’s vocal cords are on the verge of imminent collapse. Despite this, he soldiers on like a proper fucking trooper – a seasoned professional, fortified by a diet of tatties, neeps and Irn-Bru – and If anything, gets second, third and fourth winds as the evening goes on. By the time Idlewild play Idea Track and Captain, they sound like stadium sized rock-pigs, with Woomble’s impassioned vocals leading the sweet racket that threatens to overpower the Rescue Rooms’s PA, and blow a hole in the roof.
As the final notes from the last song of the encore fade – an emotional In Remote Part/Scottish Fiction – some of the band are literally on their knees, ripping strings from guitars like demented chimps trying to open a packet of dry roasted peanuts. It’s not surprising that madness and exhaustion have set in though. Idlewild have given their all during the ninety-odd thrilling minutes they’ve been onstage, and in the process have comprehensively won back my heart, and made a sweaty, rammed Rescue Rooms, the happiest place to be in Nottingham on a murky Sunday night.