IDLES (plus Crows) – Cardiff Tramshed, 27th March 2019
Let me apologise in advance for offering nothing on support band Crows; it was a beautiful spring day in Cardiff, I wasn’t working so I drank craft stout followed by cheap cider, making it to the just-out-of-town Tramshed just before Idles came on.
IDLES: a band that have been on the circuit since 2009 but can legitimately call 2018 their year. Second album, Joy As An Act Of Resistance hit the UK album charts at number 5 on its release in September 2018 and it’s fair to say they are BBC 6 Music favourites, with Mr Lamacq’s bladder as excitable as mine was after that craft stout. It’s interesting, I’ve seen plenty of comments decrying IDLES’ sudden fame and the amount of media attention they’ve had; years of vanning it around sticky-carpeted pubs, dining off Esso garage meal deals… they’ve done this the hard way, let’s celebrate that their graft paid off, regardless of whether you like their music.
Thousand capacity Cardiff Tramshed sold out in around 15 minutes. The band minus lead singer Joe Talbot come on stage and start the creeping, growling intro to album opener, Colossus. And what an opener it is – Joe joins the band and prowls left to right, eyeballing the crowd and letting them know in no uncertain terms that he is up for it. Never Fight A Man With A Perm launches the crowd into a bouncing pit and the shouts of ‘concrete to leather’ are still ringing in my ears a day later. The JAAAOR opening hat-trick is closed off with I’m Scum, which also sees Mark ‘Bobo’ Bowen head into the crowd for the first, but not last, time.
After dipping into 2017’s Brutalism with Well Done, we get Queens, from the Meat E.P before it’s Lee’s turn to throw himself into the crowd during GREAT. Bobo is soon back at it in Danny Nedelko, walking along the audience like Jeebus on water, the pit shout-spelling COMMUNITY back at him with largely-welsh gusto. It’s around this time that Joe reminds us he is Welsh (cue massive cheer) and was born just down the road in Newport (cue boos); it briefly took me back to Newport Centre nearly 25 years prior, when, during The Stone Roses’ Second Coming tour, Ian Brown donned a Cardiff City shirt and it all kicked off. Not here though, Joe soon reminds the boo-ers that sectarian nonsense is for Sleaford Mods shows – a nod to the recent inter-band bullshittery on Twitter.
Samaritans (as with Danny Nedelko) is, lyrically, one of my favourite songs of the last ten years.
With mental ill health being more prominent now than ever, and an average of eighty-four men taking their own lives every week in the UK alone, it calls on men to talk. Joe has not been backward in coming forward about his own experiences, including the devastating stillbirth of his first daughter, Agatha. Make the change from ‘man up, sit down, chin up, pipe down’ to ‘I’m a real boy, boy, and I cry’ – it’s not just okay to not be okay, it’s fucking necessary.
Before the standard crowd invite onto the stage for Exeter, Joe shouts out two groups that saved him and others – the NHS and the AF Gang. If you’re unfamiliar with the AF Gang, look them up. The IDLES community is a place like no other.
The encore-less set ends with Rottweiler and as the lights come up, the glowing, drenched and slightly broken emerge from stage centre with grins as wide as Dev’s beard is lengthy. It was an outstanding show from an important band; you might not like their sound, Joe’s vocals split opinion, but there’s no denying the importance of their words, the lives they are changing and the fact they are riding a celebratory wave which doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon.
Long live the open-minded.
Words by Lisa Whiteman