Idles - Brutalism

Idles, Souer and Slonk @ Frog and Fiddle, Cheltenham (Live Review)

It would be almost criminal not to wish BBC Introducing a happy tenth birthday and reiterate their importance to the music scene both nationally and locally. They have given some amazing artists some much needed exposure over the years, and today’s show is a mixture of supporting smaller artists and celebrating how clever they were for finding Idles. To be fair to them this was an inspired move, Brutalism was one of 2017’s best releases.

In a room surprisingly full for an opening act, Slonk are working through some intimate early emo, with surprising depth of sound and lyrics. There is a wonderful rich sound emanating from the stage which seems to be warming the room both figuratively with warm tones and physically as more people begin to pack into the barn. As the set progresses, the violin, guitar and vocal combo add layers of emotion to every note. This thirty minute set seems about thirty minutes too short.

After their appearance at this year’s Underground FestivalSouer have become a firm VH favourite and, as the room fills with feedback soaked math grunge, an entire audience are in agreement that they are about to see something special. Guitars switch on a knife edge been deep, dark, technical and heavy and the vocals gather strength from delicate starts to at times crushing endings. There is a real sense of stage craft to tonight performance and Souer absolutely own the space they are given, using quiet tones and loud contrasts to their advantage from start to finish.

With Souer’s feedback still ringing throughout the barn, Idles begin a forty five minute set full of post punk snarl. With vocals that sit somewhere between Gang of Four, Johnny Rotten and early Beastie Boys it is easy to assume there is a petulance to front man, Joe Talbot; but there isn’t. Much like the lyrics, everything in the performance is filled with a dark humour and in the moments where the audience’s eyes are not focused on the exciting performance at the front of the stage they are drawn to a man in his pants playing guitar and trying to crowd surf.

Midway through there is a surreal break to sing someone ‘happy birthday’, and almost like changing the speed on a record player the intensity immediately picks back up to full speed. In moments like this it is hard not to stand completely in awe of a front man and a band who have absolute control over a room; this is a performance full of chaotic beauty.

At the end of the night the stage and the room begin to clear, but there is a post-holiday blues feeling to the room; Idles have clearly left the audience wanting more.