LIVE: Idlewild at The Ritz, Manchester

Similar to one of my fellow Picky Bastards, I need to begin with a disclaimer. Idlewild were one of the first bands I got into and  I lost my gig virginity to them in 2002 (Manchester Academy. It was incredible). Although I have to admit, despite my love for them, I was apprehensive about seeing them live again. I didn’t like how their sound had progressed and had lost touch with their music since their 2007 album, Make Another World.

Their latest album, Interview Music, felt like a welcome slight return to their heavier roots. Although the album hasn’t fully grown on me yet. I was apprehensive because nobody wants to see one of their favourite bands become shells of their former selves… live. It’s gutting to watch. It’s like a bereavement. But you can’t walk away because you spent twenty five quid on it. So, yeah, I was nervous.

One of my first impressions was how quiet The Ritz was. There was only standing downstairs. This wasn’t faring well for my apprehension. Although it was lovely to be able to go to the loo without fighting through people. Pros and cons.

Liela Moss (of The Duke Spirit- another band whose first album was brilliant) was the support. Her voice was stunning and she owned the stage.

Not long after Liela had exited, Idlewild appeared amongst a midst of smoke and bright lights. They opened with ‘Dream Variations’ from their new album. Although I’m not yet a huge fan of the album (I’m hoping it’s a grower), their newer material sounded better live. It was rawer; it had more of a spark. Initially it seemed the crowd weren’t getting into it; a stark contrast with the guitarist, Rod Jones, who was darting around the stage.

Maybe the crowd hadn’t been able to get the next day off work? But that all changed when they played ‘Roseability’. The crowd shouted “I know that that’s not enough now” at Roddy and Co. And then the crowd became frenzied as the band played ‘I Am What I Am Not’ and ‘Little Discourage’. Roddy’s voice is just as good as it ever was. It was strange hearing them play their earlier, more juvenile tracks, but with a sense of maturity. They carried it off brilliantly.

The Ritz’s floor really started bouncing when they played ‘Live in a Hiding Place’, as everyone sang (shouted) along. There was a lot of crowd participation, including to ‘American English’.

Of all their newer songs, ‘Same Things Twice’ got the best reaction from the crowd. It’s probably the one which harks back to their earlier sound the most. It was raucous, and has a catchy chorus which was evidently great to jump around to.

Something I’ve noticed Idlewild do in the past is play their faster songs at a slower tempo. I was desperately hoping they wouldn’t do this, and fortunately they didn’t. They were full of energy, and they played a great mix of old and new. The sound at the Ritz was spot-on, which allowed them to play with their full force.

The encore was the highlight. ‘Everyone Says You’re So Fragile’…’A film about the future’… ‘A Modern Way of Letting Go’… finally ending with ‘The Remote Part’ (even including Edwin Morgan’s eye-opening and enraged poem, ‘Scottish Fiction’). The contrast between the penultimate and final songs was a powerful shift.

I needn’t have worried. The nostalgia, the memories… they weren’t tinged with any form of loss or sadness. It was a real privilege to watch Idlewild play again.

Words by Kim Fernley.

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