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Live Review: IDLES @ Festival Hall

29 July 2023 | 10:06 am | Joe Dolan

IDLES don’t do encores - they don’t need to.

IDLES @ Festival Hall

IDLES @ Festival Hall (Credit: Ryley Clarke)

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There’s an ongoing rhetoric in live music that says you should never skip out on an opening act - because they’ll probably become your new favourite band. It’s perhaps a hit-and-miss sentiment at best, but in the case of The Buoys, it is a damn near certainty.

The Eora/Sydney four-piece are nervous tonight by their own admission, but they immediately win over the Festival Hall crowd with a confident and gleeful stage presence. Working the mosh like they’re the night’s headliners, the group radiate with ambition in a situation where many others would choose to play it safe. Even debuting a new tune written not 24 hours earlier, their gambling pays off in droves. Give it time, and The Buoys will probably be back here with their own support act themselves.

As the lights flood to a blood red and the sludgy bass sounds from Adam Devonshire on Colossus fill the air, IDLES have dug their tenterhooks into the audience from the very first minute. The opening track from 2018’s Joy As An Act Of Resistance is a slow and tense build for the night before the band suddenly pivots into Car Crash, and the mosh pit collides under the jurisdiction of frontman Joe Talbot.

The energy provided by the Bristol quintet is unparalleled and utterly joyous. They are masters of chaotic positivity - leading the charge for love and acceptance in a genre often maligned by toxic fandoms and general public misunderstandings.

IDLES’ candour and sincerity put them at the forefront of 21st-century protest music. Talbot willingly and openly shares his struggles with addiction and mental health issues throughout the set, and to see him in a place of balance and ease makes the crowd beam with shared happiness for the singer.

It makes tracks like Mother, Meds, and The Wheel hit so much harder and gives hope to others in a similar boat. It’s an extended hand out to the crowd, who grip on with all their might. While Talbot’s crooning to The Beachland Ballroom struggles a little thanks to the bookends of guttural growling and screaming, the tune still hits like no other, thanks to the incredible guitar work of Lee Kiernan.

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Not one to drown in a sea of earnestness, the band stops halfway through Love Song to lead a mass singalong of the most motley medley of tunes possible. Sinéad O’Connor leads into Celine Dion leads into Nick Cave leads into Mariah Carey - all while guitarist Mark Bowen screams his heart out of his yellow sundress from the middle of the mosh.

In the last few moments of the night, any seated stragglers are suddenly forced to their feet thanks to the opening riff of Never Fight A Man With A Perm. Stomping and thrashing abound as the five-piece expertly weaves in and out of bizarre tempo shifts between verse and chorus, thanks to the phenomenal drumming of Jon Beavis. The pro-immigration anthem Danny Nedelko sees Bowen return to the depths of the mosh once more before Rottweiler rings out the night. IDLES don’t do encores - they don’t need to.

Emblazoned across the chest of many fans (thanks to the merch desk) reads the credo for IDLES and a perfect encapsulation of their time on stage: Hard Rock For Softies.