What happens when a band revered for their high energy, chaos induced and passionately charged live shows descends on a studio that is one of the pinnacles of the music world? Pure cathartic magic.
It’s not like they’re not used to playing these iconic venues though. Last year headlining Alexandra Palace and selling out it’s 10,000 person capacity within an hour. And have recently announced a run of new UK shows for next year that sees them serve a four night residency at Brixton Academy. The difference here though is though the usual mosh pits and unify anthemic chorus’ were missing. But we know that thanks to the community IDLES have created around their music, everyone watching forgot where they were, at least for a time.
It has certainly been a strange year for live music. With the usual barage of summer festivals taken away for obvious reasons, and venues closed for the foreseeable future. Band have had to find new ways to connect with their fans. IDLES have always been a community band. The AF Gang Facebook group is a homage to the love and admiration that not only the fans have for the band but the band has for the fans.
Over the course of these 3 ‘lock-in’ sessions IDLES delivered one of the most raw and resounding live performances of the livestream age. With the setlists spanning their entire discography, including the four new singles from their forthcoming album Ultra Mono, due on September 25th. “It feels like we’re under the microscope” proclaims lead singer Joe Talbot and like most experiments under a laboratory, it’s fascinating to watch and will even throw up some surprises.
Blasting straight into action with ‘Heel/ Heal’, the sound is frantic, raw and yet consistently focused. It’s been quite some time since the band fully performed together, but they look and feel at home. Feeding off each others desire to get back into what they love, delivering thunderous live performances. And in true rock and roll fashion, Set 1 ended with a guitar smash from Bowen during ‘Rottweieller’. The lyrics do insist to “Smash it, ruin it, destroy the world”
It’s not just the fast popping punk riffs that show off their live prowess though, but some of the darker, moodier moments. The transition from ‘Gram Rock’ to ‘Date Night’ is ominous and boding, as the almost western film soundtrack like riff slowly chugs along. After viewing all these songs thrown together it’s easy to see how much the bands sound has grown over the years. Moving from the bouncing riffs of ‘Rachel Khoo ‘ to the marching beats and highly synthesised guitar riff of new single ‘Grounds’. But
Talbot has always been a passioned singer, he delivers the lines with conviction and intent. You can see what these songs and the messages he puts in them mean to him. Through his gritted teeth the anthems of a revolutionist and forward thinking generation are sung. “The best way to scare a tory is to read and get rich” he instructs on ‘Mother’.
There may not be an audience to react to but they still own the stage, keeping everyones digital eyes fully on them. Guitarist Mark Bowen still prancing about during riff breaks, he’s even suited himself up this time; usual attire is limited to just underwear. Talbot hops on the floor tom to help drummer Jon Beavis during ‘Rottweiler’. And Lee Kiernan, who’s usual approach is to take his guitar playing into the audience, still finds a wall to climb as he’s serenaded by Bowen with a medley of one line covers.
They even had time to throw in some devastatingly brutal but brilliant covers, with the highlight being The Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’, which I’m sure everyone is aware, but was in fact recorded at Abbey Road studios. A song that’s received its fair share of covers of the years, but none have ever sounded this empowered, haunting and beefed out.
Yes there were a couple of restarts and missed cues, but this just added to the emphasis that this was a show for the fans; it had to sound right. They even brought out the enlarged lyrics sheets at points. “Reminding me what a terrible singer I am” jokes Talbot before they kicked into action on the high paced ‘Mr. Motivator’.
There were also a plethora of dedications on the third set, one to a fan who sadly passed away of cancer and one to “The NHS and all our key workers who’ve kept us afloat, long live open minded, down with tory scum”.
“I miss this so fucking much” proclaimed Talbot during the third set. So do we Joe, so do we.