Review: Idles

In the spirit of punk, Sunday night meant silly string and mosh pits at Bootleg, Blackpool, 15 April

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At a venue with a capacity of just 300, tickets sold fast for five-piece punk band Idles, who, having released their debut album Brutalism in March 2017, have been winning over crowds in the UK, Europe and US one venue at a time.

They show no signs of slowing either. Their summer festival bookings will have them visiting Switzerland, Serbia and Russia, as well as several slots in the north, including Liverpool’s Sound City, Live at Leeds and a return to Blackpool to play Rebellion Festival. But they’re not getting ahead of themselves and their main focus this Sunday was to deliver a whirlwind hour for Blackpool locals.

To begin the night, fellow Bristol band Lice warmed up the crowd with their minute-long tragi-comic art-punk tunes. Although not as solid as the headliner, they put on a good show with the frontman channeling Ian Curtis as he stared out the crowd with his dead-eyed glare.

With just a small gap before Idles took to the stage, the crowd quickly filled and the energy of the small room rapidly elevated. The band kicked off with album opener Heel/Heal and the fast drumbeat drove frontman Joe Talbot to jog on the spot before unleashing his harsh vocals and sending the audience into a frenzy.

Sporting a thick, black moustache and dressed in white, Talbot looks more hipster than punk but punk was never supposed to be the fashion statement we associate with most bands from the genre. Each band member has their own style, and does their own thing, showing the genuine punk ethos at the heart of this band.

Mosh pits started immediately and one eager punter brandished a can of silly string, unleashing it all over the crowd and stage. Unfazed, Talbot continued to growl his way though his politically-charged lyrics with the contents of the can stylishly draped across his forehead.

But the frontman didn’t steal the show and each member of the band brought something to the party. One guitarist stripped off half way through the gig down to his tighty-whities (rivalling Talbot and his silly string for strongest look) and treated the crowd to his rendition of Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas.

If you’re wondering why on earth you’d spend a Sunday night watching such behaviour, the only explanation is that at the time, under the Idles banner, it made perfect sense. Other audience members brought props too – gold medals were swung around before being awarded to the other, fully dressed, guitarist, who wore them proudly round his neck.

Despite not taking themselves seriously, a lot of the songs were driving important points to the crowd. It might not be a traditional way of getting a crowd riled up but between songs, Talbot asked “Who appreciates our NHS?” and got a huge reaction. Later he dedicated a song to the hardworking immigrants in the country.

With lyrics such as “The best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich” it’s pretty clear how they feel about current politics. Idles pull no punches when it comes to pushing their agenda and the crowd – a mixed bunch seemingly with shared disdain for an established order that says Sunday nights are for work dread – eat it up greedily. Communities in places like Blackpool might be struggling to survive, but in this tiny music venue, there was a community spirit very much alive, albeit a bit silly.

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