Following from their high energy debut Brutalism, it was last year’s sophomore release Joy as an Act of Resistance from IDLES which really propelled the five-piece. Making several album-of-the-year lists (but more importantly, topping ours), the record turned heads with its uncompromising sound and honest lyrics on everything from miscarriage to toxic masculinity (and, of course, Brexit). The Bristol band brought Joy as an Act of Resistance in all its cathartic glory to the full capacity crowd at The Leadmill.
Kicking off with Brutalism track, ‘Heel/Heal’, the night erupted instantly. This was followed in quick succession by ‘Well Done’, also from the debut. IDLES’ lyrics are powerfully conveyed live. The group occupy a unique position on the rock scene in skilfully blending the political (“I sing at fascists ’till my head comes off, I am Dennis Skinner’s Molotov”), the personal (“I know nothing, I’m just sitting here looking at pretty colours”), and the downright inane (“Peter Tarquin wins a medal, so why don’t you win a medal?”).
All these lyrics are chanted back by what soon becomes a rapturous sea of bodies. Lead singer Joe Talbot is a commanding presence on stage, with his raspy yell complementing the beefy post-punk instrumentation. The air of menace to tunes such as ‘The Idles Chant’ and ‘Colossus’ is offset by the constant sense of hope threaded into the set much like their records.
‘Danny Nedelko’ is an affecting tribute to the positive contributions of immigrants, taking its cues from indie as much as punk, and ‘Samaritans’ is a brilliant, frank number centring on mental health – “I’m a real boy, boy, and I cry, I love myself and I want to try.”
There are enough changes of tempo and lyrical themes to keep things interesting, and the sheer energy with which the band performs is absolutely infectious. They play fiercely through their discography, to an adoring crowd and by set closer ‘Rottweiler’, the sheer power of their performance pulsates throughout the room.
In times of turmoil, IDLES prove through their live show that joy really can be an act of a resistance. And what a joy they are to witness.
Words: Dominic Penna, Photos: Lewis Evans