Idles have not been an easy band to see in Manchester since they caught fire at the tail end of 2016. Their only appearance last year was at the Neighbourhood Festival in October, their Spring tour curiously skipping Cottonopolis. It all means that the anticipation tonight at Gorilla as they take the stage is super-charged. This is part of their Unity tour – as is evidenced when they orchestrate a show of mass unity by urging us to hug the person to our left about half way through the night. Despite the easy, lazy conclusions that some might jump to when listening to their music, Idles are indeed lovers not fighters. It’s just that sometimes they get a bit angry.

What we have tonight is a gauntlet ride through the Idles story so far. As revealed in an interview for this site this week, their second album is fully recorded, and based on the evidence tonight, it will be no Second Coming. The new tracks, which include ‘Rottweiler’, ‘Samaritans’ and best of all ‘I Am Scum’, resist none of the impulses that made Idles such an unmissable band in the first place, but still show the development in frontman Joe Talbot’s writing. He has become a noticeably more mellow energy source away from the stage, and perhaps it may just slightly be seeping into the new material too. That said, the same passion and willingness to take on the world one bastard at a time runs through every vein of it, and you’ll still lose your voice screaming along.

Talbot paces up and down the stage like a caged eagle from the first second to the last, constantly dreaming up new ways to prey on anything that gets in his way. Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan’s dual guitar attack is the rocket fuel of the band, the red meat that taunts Talbot into the crazed, furious state that is so unique to an Idles show. As with any well-credentialed punk band, the rhythm section is tight, economic and laser focused, Adam Devonshire’s bass and Jon Beavis’ drums giving the crowd the exact timings they need to get their pogoing just right.

Anyone familiar with Brutalism, the best record of 2017, will not be surprised to learn that tracks like ‘Mother’ and ‘Well Done’ are major highlights, every single word of both bellowed back at the band from every corner of the room, each one containing an entire career’s worth of zingers. ‘Divide And Conquer’, which Talbot dedicates to the staff of the NHS, and ‘1049 Gotho’ are also particularly memorable, the latter a surprisingly moving tale of depression (the absence tonight of Brutalism’s secret weapon ‘Slow Savage’ is disappointing, if not entirely unforeseen).

Quite what possesses the band to launch into an impromptu a capella version of ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ about an hour into proceedings will probably remain a mystery for the rest of time, but this crowd sings it as scornfully as if Mariah’s corporate classic had been written as a blistering attack on the Tory ‘Hostile Environment’ policy, a wry smile creeping across Talbot’s face as he realises how willing Gorilla are to play along.

It is telling of the bond that Idles have with their audience, but it also shows how relieved a certain type of music lover is to have a band like Idles in their lives. The times called for a band that could express this emotion, anger and world view, and Idles, thank god, arrived at the exact right moment to answer that call. With world events not showing any obvious signs of an upswing, Idles hopefully are not going anywhere. We need them.

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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.