Brutalism was an album which scrutinized and satirized UK society, covering subjects from depression to the Tory government. The album received rave reviews internationally, being compared to all the infamous politically charged outfits of the century, and launched IDLES into the music industry as a punk force to be reckoned with.
Before the band officially came on stage, there was a real sense of community in Gorilla’s main room; I’ve never seen so many people wearing the same band merchandising in one room, and it didn’t take long to get into a conversation with anyone about the band. Over the past couple of years IDLES have developed a close-knit fan base, so it was nice to see this continued in their shows too.
The set had a fairly even split between songs from Brutalism and songs from their upcoming album, which is always risky for a band who have released just one hugely successful album. But one thing which IDLES managed to do which not many bands can achieve is keeping the audience’s attention during their unreleased material. Front man Joe Talbot would often describe the lyrical themes behind the new tracks before performing them, for example explaining their song ‘Samaritans’ themes of damaging masculinity, which allowed the audience to engage with the new songs enough to be singing along by the end.
On the one hand, IDLES live was everything I expected it to be: mosh pits that consumed practically the whole crowd, brittle guitars in full force battling each other, and performers who often throw themselves into the audiences, embracing the mayhem. On the other hand, I was surprised at how much the ‘Unity Tour’ was really about unity. Talbot’s performance was always the centrepiece of the show, delivering lyrics in consumed, spitting rage, whipping the microphone stand around his head and throwing himself across the stage as if to encourage a riot. But Talbot’s anger is not destructive or hateful; it is an energy he uses to bring his audience together. He asks the audience to hug the person next to them, he talks frankly with the audience about depression, masculinity, grief and racism, to name a few. If you describe IDLES as a punk band, which is debated, it is punk reformed for a society seeking acceptance and tolerance in the face of blind hate and ignorance.
I knew from the album that IDLES was going to be a sweaty, thrashing affair to see live, but IDLES continue to prove themselves as a new direction for British music, and their ‘Unity Tour’ has been no exception.
Image: Lindsay Melbourne