You’ve been a band for 20 years. It’s your first new record in six. What better night to play your only London show on the tour than on Friday the 13th? For most bands, these things stacked up would be a cause for panic, but most bands aren’t Idlewild. And if tonight proves anything, it’s that more bands should try taking a risk!
“I don’t want to spoil anything but they’ve been Fing good all week” states support act and frequent Roddy Woomble collaborator, Sorren Maclean. Singing with a Josh Rouse-like delicacy that would easily be ignored by an unforgiving crowd, Sorren’s command of intricate instrumentation, calm intimacy and effortlessly memorable melody require everyone’s attention. I suspect he’s been Fing good all week as well.
And then the stage is prepped. There’s a palpable energy in the room: Equal parts nostalgia – overheard conversations of “The last time I saw them was…” and anticipation – “God, I hope they play…” – with just enough energy to warrant pushing forward to be within spitting distance of – as their website describes – “a band from Scotland.”
What some bands might receive as their biggest cheer of the evening comes tonight as the lights go down and the moment finally arrives: Idlewild take to the stage. Within seconds it’s clear that after 20 years, this band certainly knows what they’re doing as they tear their way through new track ‘Nothing You Can Do About It’ and classic ‘You Held the World in your Arms’. The crowd scream in adoration as it sets the tone for the rest of the evening: a balance of arena-filling anthems like ‘Love Steals us from Loneliness’ contrasts with the new string section and harmony in ‘Utopia’. Everything they play, new or old is sung word for word by a legion of fans that gladly hang themselves as Roddy feeds them another line.
It’s very easy to play a set that feels like a ‘best of’ when your entire career is just that: your very best. As guitarist Rod Jones propels himself around the stage during huge noisemakers like ‘Captain’, ‘Little Discourage’ and the quite frankly outrageous ‘Collect Yourself’, Roddy even steps off stage to watch what his band can do; takes it all in before stepping back to mic and joining in with his creations. That Idlewild are able to bring the same level of awe to the always cinematic ‘American/English’ and acoustically rousing ‘I Understand It’ stands testament to what range of songwriting prowess this band continue to possess after 20 years.
“It’s been a long time…” declares Roddy as he readies another track. “…Where have you been?” The consensus amongst the crowd is pretty clear: Waiting for tonight. Waiting for this. Waiting for you.
By the time of the encore – the double bill of the astonishingly driving ‘Modern way of Letting Go’ and soaring ‘In Remote Part’ which has the crowd bouncing up and down into the air begging for even more – the evening is enough to remind that Idlewild are one of the most important rock bands still making music.
Not bad for “a band from Scotland.”