Photo credit: Kieran Webber (Taken at Eden Project 2021)

IDLES triumph at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom

Are you ready to look after each other?” IDLES frontman Joe Talbot asks a swaying Glasgow crowd. The near two thousand in attendance are utterly enraptured by the band’s every movement; every scream, kick and lash of feedback from their wall of amplifiers. It’s only mid-way through their opening song, ‘Colossus’, but already the crowd have obediently split in two. Open armed Talbot finally asks “Are you ready to collide?”, and the crowd are more than willing to oblige. It’s their third and final sold out night at the Barrowland Ballroom, and IDLES have been welcomed to Glasgow like lost sons. 

A tour two years in the waiting, their music—like so much art produced on the brink of the pandemic—has become strangely prescient. In these venues, it’s a raw love that IDLES preach: generous, self-deprecating, vulnerable. Together, these feelings of isolation, fear, depression and loss can be explored.  

It’s a performance marked by the band’s continual debt and gratitude to their fans. On the back of four nights at London’s Brixton Academy and three nights at Manchester’s O2 Victoria Warehouse with individual shows in Birmingham, Sheffield and Newcastle, it’s a mammoth tour that solidifies IDLES’ ambitions and their successes over the past two years. These shows were originally to take place in May 2021, but were rescheduled due to the pandemic. In that time, IDLES released their fourth critically acclaimed album, ‘CRAWLER’, with tracks from the LP being given their live debut. On the track ‘Crawl’, as guitarist Mark Bowen takes a brief moment of respite on keys and synthesisers, it shows the band’s widening musical palette, capable of light touches as well as the heavier strums. 

“It’s rare to see a gig as immersive and inclusive”

Songs such as ‘Mr. Motivator’, ‘Mother’, ‘Samaritans’ and ‘Never Right a Man With a Perm’ are played, perhaps unexpectedly, within the first forty minutes. Having fuelled the crowd, they take moments to admire it. As master entertainers they twist, bend and shape the crowd to their will; whether hushing the room to their knees for the chorus of ‘I’m Scum’ or incanting a sea of hands to hoist Bowen into their air, at one point guitarist Lee Kiernan finds himself at the back of the room, tethered by his guitar lead— it’s rare to see a gig as immersive and inclusive.

It’s a unique spectacle of sight as well as sound, also. At times blinding, the strobe lights coupled with that trademark IDLES wall of sound make the experience all the more fleeting, as if you can’t really be certain what you’ve witnessed. 

Towards the end of the set the band play ‘Wizz’ twice due to sound issues, with Talbot exclaiming the second time was worse than the first. The audience, however, are in love with their process all the same— before the second run-through we see Bowen resetting his pedals, Kiernan tuning his guitar, with Talbot, facing the drum kit and beating his chest. 

Before ‘Danny Nedelko’ is played there is an inevitable acknowledgement to the corruption of those in power. In quick reply to the boo’s from the crowd, Talbot, with a Scotland flag draped over his shoulders, quips, “Save your boo’s for the streets, people… they’re not here tonight.” 

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