Idles at Victoria Warehouse, Manchester 30/01/22

Words and Photos by Jacob Swetmore

A gig almost 2 years in the making, I headed down to catch IDLES on their final date of a run of shows at the O2 Victoria Warehouse in Manchester. Since the pandemic began in March of 2020, the band have released not one, but two albums; 2020’s polarising Ultra Mono, and the Kenny Beats produced Crawler in late 2021. So, with plenty of new material in their discography, how did IDLES fair upon their return to Manchester?

Big Joanie

London-based punks Big Joanie opened the show, perfectly setting the politically charged tone of the evening. As the crowds began to fill in, drummer Chardine encouraged the crowd to look after each other throughout the night, a sentiment often championed by IDLES themselves.

Big Joanie

Next up was Savages alumni Jehnny Beth, delivering an incredibly intense performance straight out of the gate with Innocence, from her 2020 ‘personal’ debut TO LOVE IS TO LIVE. Beth provided constant visual spectacle throughout the course of her 40 minute set, spending much of this time in the crowd. Stand-outs included I’m The Man, and More Adrenaline.

Jehnny Beth
Jehnny Beth

After Jehnny Beth had left the stage, it was clear that the upwards of 3,000 strong crowd was well and truly ready for the main act, with chants of “IDLES” echoing throughout the venue.

Idles

As the Bristol five-piece entered the stage, the slow, brooding rim click of their sophomore album opener Colossus began, to raucous cheers from the anticipating audience. Despite the aforementioned Ultra Mono and Crawler both having strong openers in War and MTT 420 RR, it is Colossus that continues to act as the fan-favourite opener for IDLES shows, and it is clear to see why; with frontman Joe Talbot utilising the songs break to split the crowd in two, ready for the sonic onslaught to come in the final verse.

Idles

Crawler and Ultra Mono singles Car Crash, Mr Motivator and Grounds followed, helping demonstrate just how tight the band had become following two pandemic-tinged years to hone their craft. IDLES then followed with a run of songs from their critically acclaimed debut Brutalism, which went down a treat with fans; this included the ever more relevant Divide & Conquer, which addresses the state of the NHS under Conservative rule.

Idles

At the centre of IDLES’ show is soulful-swayer The Beachland Ballroom, self-described as “the most important song” on Crawler, which gifted fans with a few minutes of well deserved rest from non-stop moshing and dancing. This however, was short lived, as the opening guitar notes of fan-favourite Never Fight a Man With a Perm rang out across the venue directly afterwards.

The second half of the show provided a perfect mix of old and new, with highlights including Brutalism’s 1049 Gotho, and Crawler’s The Wheel. However, undoubtedly the most well received song of the night was the pro-immigration antepenultimate anthem Danny Nedelko, which had the entire venue chanting along with Talbot, which he later described as “the best feeling in the world”.

Idles

However, a noticeable omission from the show was IDLES’ well-renowned audience-involving stage antics, such as guitarists Bowen and Kiernan entering the crowd, or fans joining them on stage for their closing song; all stunts which had become a core part of the IDLES experience. Whilst the reason for this omission is unclear, it would be great to see these antics eventually return, perhaps once COVID-19 is less prevalent.

Idles

Despite this, IDLES are currently the best they have ever sounded, providing a stellar hour and a half of songs new and old, which only left me wanting more.

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Philip Goddard

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