Live @ Carling Bristol Academy
April 10, 2005
Review & Photography: Steve Bateman


Undervalued and underrated, are just a couple of the thoughts that spring to my mind, when I think of sensitive Scot-rockers, Idlewild.

It's reassuring to know however, that in a recent poll to name the 'Top 50 Scottish Bands of All Time' (held by Scottish magazine The List), readers voted Idlewild # 3, just behind Travis and the overall winners, Belle & Sebastian.

Formed in 1995, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Idlewild have indeed come a long way since their 1998 debut mini-album, Captain - which with its visceral energy and frenzied wall of noise, bares none of the hallmarks found in the band's most recent offering, the measured and mature, REM-esque, Warnings/Promises.

It's a transition which can be traced back to 2002's The Remote Part, and which was seemingly completed, after the sacking of bassist Bob Fairfoull, that same year. With new members enlisted in 2003, Idlewild became and remain, a fully-fledged 5-piece - Roddy Woomble (vocals), Rod Jones (lead guitar), Allan Stewart (guitar), Gavin Fox (bass), and Colin Newton (drums).

Fresh from an intimate 4-date acoustic tour in late January, tonight's show, is the fifth date on Idlewild's full-scale UK Tour, and with a stage backdrop that recalls the American English video, hundreds of tiny light bulbs burn brightly, as the band walk out in front of their adoring audience.

Roddy is the last member to appear, but as soon as he steps up to his mic, the calm setting quickly changes with the storming comeback single, Love Steals Us From Loneliness. As he cries, "Don't tell me you're afraid of the past, it's only the future that didn't last" - his emphatic vocals are reinforced by Rod's plaintive harmonies, before the band (without even stopping to catch their breath afterwards), plunge straight into the explosive Little Discourage.

I Understand It, which soon follows, shows the more reflective and mellower side of the band's music, by incorporating the earthy and honest elements, typically associated with American country and folk music - yet notably, the band's Celtic undertones are always present.

Alternatively, the clattering power chords of A Modern Way Of Letting Go, result in a mind-blowing riff-fest of guitar squalls and feedback, which the first few rows aggressively pogo up-and-down to. Welcome Home, also unveils more of Rod's handy fretwork.

Idlewild are particularly fond of promoting the 'support your local poet' slogan, and Roddy's well-honed lyrics, are themselves, articulate, poetic, philosophical, introspective and thought provoking, as illustrated on These Wooden Ideas, where he attacks postmodernism.

In fact, Roddy is a riveting frontman, who constantly reacts to his crowd. After walking across the stage monitors as though they were a tightrope, he stretches out to touch the fans' hands, before stepping back to tell us, "The last time we were here, we played this song acoustically at St. George's… and it makes me feel very happy."

It turns out to be the indispensable, When I Argue I See Shapes, which with its infectious melody and pop sensibilities, manages to get right under your skin - like all great pop songs truly should!

Next comes the heart-stopping majesty of American English, and with numerous lighters held aloft, this towering anthem leaves the hairs on the back of your neck standing. An absolute classic!

I Want A Warning snaps and penetrates, Live In A Hiding Place is reflective and gorgeous, and El Capitan's heavenly piano line, rides over a jangly melody as Roddy muses, "I hope you take your camera, to photograph my tears as they hit the ground."

On The Space Between All Things, Rod indulges in an extended / dynamic guitar solo, and Roseability is of course, delivered with Idlewild's typical bluster, whilst referencing Gertrude Stein.

Roddy then reveals, that the tender Disconnected, is about "childhood memories" - but when You Held The World In Your Arms' resounding roar begins afterwards, its orchestrated guitar assault, ensures that this is one of the gig's highlights.

When the band return for their encore, we are surprised with a very respectable cover of the Ramones' I Wanna Be Sedated, which is perfectly paired with the biting finale that is, A Film For The Future.

It's perhaps fair to say, that some old-school Idlewild fans, would prefer to see the band return to their callow, post-punk roots, like this. But on hearing the new material played live throughout a diverse set, many of the band's newer songs, still manage to retain the invigorating energy and fierceness of old.

In other words, Idlewild aren't afraid to still rock out!

So for me, there's no reason why they should remain so undervalued / underrated, or why they can't go on to achieve massive mainstream success, both here and Stateside. They have the songs to do it, and in a world where nothing is certain, it's always good to remember, like Idlewild said themselves, "Hope Is Important."

A very special thanks to Mike @ Infected, for all of his time and help, and to Idlewild + their management / security.