“I have a record. Obviously. I’d be stupid not to tell you about it”
Liela Moss sauntered out like a photographer’s dream, throwing exquisite shapes with every beat. Like a lower-register, sultry Bjork, her voice created sonic landscapes emerging ethereally from the dry ice and blinding lights.
The band played diligently, accepting that all eyes were on their lead singer. Decidedly different in tone and sound than the main band, but that’s no bad thing. Support slots should be about showcasing and discovery.
“We were first here 19 years ago”
“Prepare yourselves, these guys are going to be fucking great” was Moss’s warning/promise, as if anyone needed telling.
Fitting for a tour to promote their latest record, Idlewild opened with Interview Music‘s opening track, Dream Variations. It sounded incredibly layered and compelling live. In fact, the new tracks all played well, speaking to the band’s continuing vitality and versatility.
Still, after over two decades together, their back catalogue is extensive and truly loved. The collective gasps and grins caused by the opening chords of 2000 single Roseability were a joy to behold. Singer Roddy Woomble’s impish grin as he witnessed that reaction said it all.
With barely time to draw breath, Idlewild cannoned into another fan favourite, You Held The World In Your Arms.
The pattern of shock and awesome continued throughout the electric show. 24 years on and guitarist Rod Jones still threw himself around the stage while the fans thronged on the dance floor, pogoing to tracks like A Little Discourage.
Admittedly, Woomble’s stage presence has changed since the early days of wild punk-fuelled exuberance which could see him leaping into the crowd and throwing shoes. His current habit of thoughtfully pacing around the stage, retreating to the shadows to watch and showcase his bandmates whenever there was a break in his lyrical duties, is much more similar to his serene bearing as a solo performer.
In a world of ego-driven rock stars, there is something endearing and compelling about his quieter way.
However, his compelling vocal and commitment to Idlewild’s music remained fresh and fierce. He and the band held the crowd in thrall, compelling them to spontaneously chant as if demanding an encore while only five songs in. Later, the unprompted singalong to American English was life affirming. That touches on one of the enticing contradiction of Idlewild. While often louder and boisterous than their musical contemporaries, their lyrics were markedly literate and esoteric. So that’s how we ended up with 2,000 people lustily singing transcendental lyrics seemingly influenced by Keats and Whitman.
Truth be told, it wasn’t all good. Two crimes were committed that night. Firstly, the photographers were made to leave the venue during the masterful controlled cacophony of I Am What I Am Not. [You’d better believe that I’d run round and made it back inside by the second chorus]. Secondly, talented fiddle player Hannah Fisher, a mainstay of Womble’s solo tours, was relegated to the back of the stage. That’s definitely illegal in several countries. At least it did lead to some otherworldly moments as her angelic vocals floated around the space, and joy as fans that couldn’t see her cheered to learn of her presence when her name was announced.
Nothing could dampen the unbridled joy of a world-class show. Understanding the dedication of their fans, the band were sure to include deeper, older cuts. There was surprise verging on disbelief to hear such classic tracks as Everyone Says You’re So Fragile and When I Argue I See Shapes.
After a triumphant gig like this, imagine how good the 25th anniversary commemorations shows will be. See you down the front!
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