The Hard-Rock Circus Descends upon Glasgow
IDLES have been destroying the British music scene with aggressive positivity since 2017. The release of their recent album, Joy as an Act of Resistance, and their 2019 Glastonbury show have propelled them into the agitated musical subconscious of many listeners. The show at the Barrowlands Ballroom demonstrated their position as one of the most entertaining, raucous, outrageous, and talented bands in the UK right now.
IDLES are no mean band. Literally. Their general approach to music is to combine heavy, driving and intimidating riffs and sounds with positive concepts like inclusivity, self-care and optimism. This approach is inherently oxymoronic: how can heavy music get across ideas of happiness and positivity? The album might be a bit abstract in its demonstration of this ethos, but their live gigs show exactly what they’re getting at.
Listen to Colossus as you’re reading this. It’s the first song on the new album and the energy it conjures will show you exactly what this band are all about. The slow crescendo is met with a face-rippingly anarchic screaming and instrumentality. At this show, the simple flicking of the rim of the snare drum to start, combined with a monstrous sounding bass riff, is enough to move the crowd. Screams like, “FUCKIN GEEZ IT” echo in the air, and the lead singer, Joe Talbot, looks out to us with ferocious eyes. The crescendo slowly builds, bodies and pints fly everywhere, people fall and are helped back up – and then lift off: IDLES explode and give everything they have.
This is one of the most brutal gigs I’ve ever attended. Anyone who has listened to IDLES knows they’re intense, and the mosh-pits and crowd-surfing are testament to this. But unlike any gig I’ve been too, there was a general atmosphere of unity which hung in the air. The mosh-pits aren’t aggressive and filled with idiots looking to start fights – they’re an outlet for the built-up energy of the listeners who promote a general appreciation of the music. We all scream in each other’s faces, but not out of hatred or intimidation: we are unified in our aggressive love for such a powerful band. The gig was also immensely entertaining because the band generally had fun playing. Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan crowd-surfed whilst still playing guitar, and there was a point where Kiernan chucked his guitar into the crowd, sent it all the way to the back of the room, played it from there and then was carried back to the stage on someone’s shoulders, all the while keeping tempo and rhythm. Madness.
But this isn’t just drunken fun. The songs that the band play push outward to a wider context: Danny Nedelko pulses with the joy of promoting inclusion of immigrants rather than marginalisation; Television argues that getting up off your arse and avoiding the consumption of media can help your mental health; Samaritans explores the negative effects of hypermasculinity on the general happiness of society, and also discusses the foundational work of the Samaritans in helping frontman Joe Talbot, as well as many others, overcome depression. The list goes on, showing that IDLES aren’t just another heavy band with good riffs to jump around to mindlessly, but are a band who aim to make a real impact on people’s lives. This is the message which lies within the title of their most recent album, Joy as an Act of Resistance: negativity in society will try to force you down, but you must use joy to fight this system. Or you can go to gigs like this one, where the atmosphere of unity and positivity can be used to help you resist the bullshit.