2017 was a huge year for Bristol punk band IDLES. In March their debut album ‘Brutalism’ was released, before playing British festivals such as Reading and Leeds and Latitude during the summer, and then supporting rock giants Foo Fighters at the O2 Arena in London in September. Their debut was released to huge critical acclaim as well, and built them a huge, and incredibly loyal fan base. As ‘Brutalism’ was one of my favourite albums of last year, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them live in Bath on Sunday.
Photo credit: Rowan Allen
Komedia is a very intriguing venue. Hosting comedy and club nights as well as live shows, the venue has won the ‘Chortle Award for Best Venue in the West and Wales’ five times since it opened in 2008. The atmosphere in the venue was a very welcoming one, and there was a real sense of community amongst the sold out crowd of just under 1,000 people. The majority of the crowd arrived early to see fellow Bristol band ‘Lice’, who delivered a blistering half an hour long set, which warmed up the majority of the crowd to the extent that the room felt like a sauna afterwards.
At 9:15, IDLES took the stage to rapturous applause, with frontman Joe Talbot sporting a gold, glittery cape as he emerged. The opening track from their debut album ‘Heel/Heal’ kicked in, and Talbot studied the crowd carefully, taking in the energy before barking the opening lines. The intensity was palpable from anywhere in the venue, as the crowd jumped along relentlessly, and the band seemed ready to keep it going for the next hour.
Fan favourites ‘The Idles Chant’, ‘Faith in the City’ and ‘Queens’ came and went in what seemed like just a couple of minutes, and the crowds energy did not let up at all. Guitarist Mark Bowen eventually executed his trademark move of stripping down into just his underwear, and it wasn’t long before both him and fellow guitarist Andy S were getting intimate with the crowd, both taking their opportunities to crowd surf, to the delight of many.
Of course, they didn’t restrain from being political during their set, with Talbot dedicating one of the songs to ‘Anyone who’s willing to sit down and talk with people who disagree with you’ in reference to Brexit. This statement was met with applause and cheers, further demonstrating the warm and loving atmosphere inside the venue. The band performed songs from their debut album such as ‘1049 Gotho’ (a personal favourite of mine) and ‘Mother’ in a way that sounded almost identical to the recorded versions, despite the extreme mobility of each of the musicians.
The intimacy between the crowd and the band seemed to be so strong, as if every audience member had a personal relationship with each member. The energy was electric, the crowd were singing along to every song, and the band clearly appreciated it, as Talbot announced into the mic ‘This is a hug, mate’ midway through. As the set drew to a close, they played fan favourites ‘Well Done’ and ‘White Privilege’, and Talbot declared ‘I want to say thank you to you all, partly because I haven’t shit myself, and partly because you’ve been amazing’. They then closed their set with ‘Rottweiler’, which drew to a close one of the best hours of live music I’ve experienced in a long time.
I want to be very clear when I say this: IDLES are one of the best live bands around today. Period. The energy they bring and the intimacy they have with their fans is second to none, and it translates perfectly into a live show. If you ever get the chance, listen to their debut album ‘Brutalism’ and go and see them live, whether it’s at a festival or if they’re supporting someone, whatever. Just go. You won’t regret it, trust me.
Review by Joseph Russ