Idles @ Albert Hall (photo: Max Pilley)


What a rise it has been for Idles. Just 28 months ago, they joined us in the studio for the Silent Radio radio show, with just a two-year-old EP to their name, and an advance single named ‘Well Done’ that was just beginning to get some tentative national airplay. That day, they told us of their debut album, the modern punk masterpiece known as Brutalism that would be released a few months later.

They spent 2017 as perhaps the most talked about British band of the year, and in 2018 they only got bigger. We spoke to them again a few months ahead of their second LP, the equally masterful Joy as an Act of Resistance. Each time they have returned to Manchester, they have graduated to a bigger stage. Tonight, as they set out on a major world tour, they land for the first time in the jewel in the Manchester live music crown, the Albert Hall.

Tonight sold out very quickly. Next time, they’ll inevitably have to play a bigger stage again. This is just how things seem to be for Idles. You have to wonder if there is some kind of breaking point for them, some scale that their unique blend of rage and sensitivity won’t be able to fill. If we’re getting near that point, then there is no sign of it tonight, however.

There is a thunderous tension in the room as the moment of their arrival approaches. It is clear that the Bristol band have tapped into something in the consciousness of a lot of music fans – a disgust at the deterioration of our politics, a despair for the lack of compassion in our society – that was being overlooked by all of Idles’ peers. As Stewart Lee brilliantly put it, they are the embodiment of a movement that should be referred to as ‘snowflake oi’. The ninety minute purge of emotion and energy that takes place tonight is a sort of mass catharsis, a release of tension in the safest and healthiest place possible.

They play an 18 song set, split exactly between the two albums. The songs upon which the reputation was originally built – ‘Well Done’, ‘Mother’, ‘Date Night’ – are still the biggest scream-alongs of the night, and they probably always will be. But in fact it is the newer material that seems to energise the band most of all, ‘I’m Scum’ and the sensational ‘Samaritans’ especially seeing frontman Joe Talbot leaning over in his Keith Flint pose a little more angrily than usual, guitarist Mark Bowen, in just his pants, pogoing around the stage a little more maniacally.

Bowen clambering through the crowd @ Albert Hall (photo: Max Pilley)

Indeed that stage, bigger though it is than those they were playing two years ago, is still not sizeable enough to contain Bowen for the whole stretch. We are barely half a dozen songs in when he leaps down and strides atop the heads and shoulders of the front few rows, eventually being subsumed by the crowd, disappearing for some minutes. In the midst of the mayhem, one exceedingly fortuitous audience member is carried from the crowd to the stage, getting a minute to pick up a guitar and actually play a song as an Idles member. The moment Bowen scrambles back to his place on stage, he’s off again, this time up to the balcony to spray his considerable perspiration as widely as possible throughout the room.

Talbot introduces ‘G.R.E.A.T.’ by announcing, “Long live the European Union”. He introduces closer ‘Rottweiler’ by saying, “This is for the racist cunts that write The Sun. Don’t read it, it’ll give you cancer.” These aren’t cryptic or nuanced messages, these are bold exclamations from a band that will not be cowed. The integrity of their message, though, is matched by the daftness of their anarchy, with moments tonight where we lapse into spontaneous bursts of The Four Seasons’ ‘Working My Way Back to You’ and The Fall’s ‘Hit the North’, as well as Bowen taking lead vocals for a very moving rendition of ‘Where’s My Ice Cream’. Alright, not that moving.

Tonight is a blast, a major, adrenalized blast of endorphins that will take a while to get out of the system. But it is also an antidote to the toxins in your masculinity. It is an entreaty to love more. Shall we all give that a go?

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Max Pilley

I'm a refugee in Manchester, having successfully escaped Birmingham in 2007. I'm a soon-to-be journalism student, used to edit the music section of the Manchester Uni paper, and have done a little radio production to boot. I've been adding bits and pieces to Silent Radio since 2012, mostly gig reviews, but a few albums too. Also hoping now to get involved with the brilliant radio show. When doing none of that, you can usually find me at some gig venue somewhere around town.