31st August | Rough Trade
Photos: Phil Watson
There’s been so much idle chat about who should replace Daniel Craig as the next James Bond. Idris Elba? Tom Hiddleston? Alan Carr? Any fool knows that the answer to that conundrum is Joe Talbot. He has many similarities with Ian Fleming’s secret agent (as well as his fair share of welcome differences). He prefers his audience shaken, not merely stirred. Like the suave sophisticate in the movies, he’s got a hell of a lot of love to share. His instincts in seeking to bring down the forces of global shittiness are killer.
Joe is an act of resistance, an incarnation of 21st Century humanity and modern masculinity and what it really, truly could be like. The entire ten-legged beast that is IDLES is very much a thing of the people, as the wonderfully contrasting guitarists consistently prove by joining the crowd down at ground level. In action, Lee Kiernan looks every inch the fourth member Nirvana never had. Mark Bowen looks every inch a member of the cast of M*A*S*H*, but with moves like Jagger. Bassist Adam Devonshire and drummer Jon Beavis tend to restrict their activities to the on-stage, but provide the energetic heartbeat of this deeply compassionate band.
Selling out not one, but two in-stores, IDLES returned to Rough Trade’s Live Room (which they’d christened in sweat, gob and sparkling punk back in December) to celebrate the release date of their second album, Joy As An Act Of Resistance. Bristolian favourite sons with a Bristolian audience in close proximity, it was almost ‘At Home With Idles’. And who knew they did requests? After opening with ‘Colossus’ (“I am my father’s son,/ His shadow weights a ton”), ‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’ (sound life coaching) and the sweary shoutalong of ‘Mother’ (we knew the chorus), Joe Talbot opened the setlist to the floor for requests.
We were treated to choices such as ‘Great’ (“Islam didn’t eat your hamster. Change isn’t a crime”) and ‘Exeter’, during which all borders between audience and band were removed, each band role having been handed over to a paying guest halfway through the song. Unity is not just a lyric on ‘Danny Nedelko’. It’s what they emanate. They’re also humorously self-critical, Joe giving his own critique of the impromptu ‘Exeter’ IDLES tribute band with “That sounded fuckin’ terrible.” They are similarly and endearingly humble. On such a landmark day in the band’s trajectory, he also took time to thank those present for “putting up with us as people and as shitty musicians.”
They ended with ‘Rottweiler’, which has been a favourite set-closer of late, just as it sees out the album in a perfect storm of filthy feedback and furious shouts of “Keep going” as they sound like they’re demolishing a large portacabin with their instruments. At Rough Trade, Joe left first, then Jon stopped punishing the drums, leaving Mark, Lee and Adam to let the final chords pulsate straight through our cerebral cortex, without having to connect with the ears first.
Seeing IDLES at three in the afternoon or seven in the evening is an odd experience. You can’t just go home and watch Celebrity 5 Go Caravanning/Geordie Shore/Countryfile (delete as applicable); you have to do something to prolong the joys. There will undoubtedly have been many purveyors of beer that benefitted from the warm glow and thirst for life/outright thirst that one-hundred-plus Bristolians clutching signed vinyl will have had after their IDLES ‘hairdryer’ treatment.
You can’t write IDLES in lower-case letters. It just doesn’t seem fitting. They’re too loud for that. They’re too insistent for that. It seems that, now that album number two has landed, they’re far, far too necessary for that.