IDLES - Komedia, Bath, 08/04/2018

IDLES – Komedia, Bath, 08/04/2018

IDLES’ Joe Talbot has a tummy upset.  He tells us this early on, adding, “If I stop singing and look perplexed, something’s happening.”  He’s not going to let that get in the way of the first night of their UK tour, supported by LICE.  Despite his potentially excremental affliction, he’s not only as vehement and compassionate as you’d expect, but he’s also wearing white jeans.  There’s a man who likes to sail close to the wind.

Bristol generally seems to have decamped to Bath to send two lots of its favourite sons off on the road.  Bristol descending upon Bath feels a bit like Jeremy Corbyn going to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s for a sleepover, but The Komedia itself is a great space for a lawful riot.  In tribute to three-fifths of their IDOLS, the crowd have brought their finest, most serious facial hair game.  From the size and swell of the moshpit, growing in intensity from LICE’s support slot onwards, it looks like Monday’s West Country productivity might be seriously diminished.

Both of tonight’s punk frontmen are conspicuously and refreshingly ego-lite.  Alistair Shuttleworth of LICE thanks the man who gave them their first gig at The Crofters Rights in Bristol, who is in tonight’s crowd.  It seems very natural for Joe Talbot to ask, “Is everyone feeling safe?” in a subsequent breath to the traditional, “Is everyone having a good time?”  He spends a lot of the night dedicating songs to the worthiest of causes: ‘Divide and Conquer’ is dedicated to his partner and all others who work in the NHS.  New track ‘Love Song’ is dedicated to “anyone who allows themselves to be vulnerable in front of their partner.”

Near the end, his inherent cheeky-chappiness briefly gets the better of him, or maybe just the tension summed up by the declaration, “We’ve got two songs left – and I need a poo.” In introducing ‘Well Done,’ he says, “You’ll probably all know this song – except maybe for this guy down here,” pointing at the nearest member of security manning the crush barrier. The crowd gives the butt of the joke a sympathy ‘ahhhh,’ and Talbot switches back to default setting, dedicating the song to all the people who’ve looked after us tonight.

Just to make it extra-communal, guitarists, Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan make frequent forays into, or onto, the crowd. They meet, mid-auditorium, during ‘Exeter,’ and share the joy with the groundlings. There are frequent, unified, singalong moments throughout the night, and not just at the bridge and chorus of ‘Mother.’ Bowen instigates a mass rendition of ‘All I Want for Christmas is You,’ dressed entirely in Calvin Klein (i.e. only wearing underpants). All good, sweaty, unself-conscious fun.

Punk has always been good at telling you what it dislikes, but IDLES can do that with love and common humanity as their bedrock. If you attract their disapproval, you’ve bloody deserved it. The canny knack that IDLES have of squeezing society’s zits is as satisfying as purging a volcanic pustule of your own. They give a shit, so we give a shit about them. Equally, there are times when they don’t give a shit, so we give a shit about them even more. At the end of the show, Joe Talbot’s jeans remain white. [Insert own punchline here.]

Photo credit: Rowan Allen

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