The Joy of IDLES at The Brightside: A Gig Review

The smell of Red Bull, in what I can only assume is mixed with vodka, wafts past my nostrils as City Rose’s bass chugs in my ears.  The people surrounding me are getting on it.  It is Australia Day after all.  Either that, or they are filling their veins with canned adrenaline in time for main act IDLES.  The opening band have captured the attention of The Brightside, already happily full of eager punters. City Rose’s noisy blend of post-punk harkens back to that of The Birthday Party.  The bass is thick, becoming distorted as the bassist punches every string.  The shrill guitar riffs paired with the droning baritone vocals make for a devilish performance, the drummer doing a fantastic job of making sure I won’t hear for the next couple days.  Though City Rose are down their usual tenor saxophone, which would play even further into The Birthday Party image, and the droning baritone vocals are often hard to distinguish, the band have put on a compelling and extensive opening set.

IDLES front man, Joe Talbot, soon takes to the stage.  He smiles at the crowd and paces back and forth as the band accompany him. The air is already thick with sweat.  Jon Beavis hits his sticks against the rim of his drums.  The audience know what is about to take place.  They erupt and throw their bodies forward.   The bellowing, distorted bass cements what the crowd already knew; IDLES begin with Colossus.  We move in anticipation.  The crowd swelling like a maelstrom, pushing back and forth as Talbot yells, “forgive me father I have sinned.” The music cuts.  We wait.  The sweat already dripping down the side of my face.  Talbot quickly counts, “One, two.” The band erupts. We copy.  Limbs are thrown, and bodies smash like wild animals fighting for prey.

IDLES quickly transition into Never Fight A Man With A Perm.  Talbot is a force to be reckoned with on stage.  His strong demeanour is captivating for those not preoccupied in the mosh.  The crowd help him with each lyric.  We yell, “Concrete and leather,” back at the stage, overpowering any sound bellowing out.  IDLES move into Mother, their ferocious single off their 2017 album Brutalism.  The bass roars from the stage, the crashing drums giving us rhythm to mosh to.  The air is now thicker than before.  I struggle for breath in between accompanying my fellow compatriots in the pit. We scream the lyrics back at the band.  IDLES are now drenched in sweat, something our cross-continental-cousins welcome as guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan flick their wet hair back and forth.  The band treat us to back to back head-bangers with I’m Scum and Danny Nedelko, the latter reinvigorating the maelstrom.  We don’t get a chance to breathe until IDLES slow things down a notch with Divide & Conquer. Television and Great pick the tempo back up, our shirts are now heavy and as see through as a greasy sausage roll bag.  Some punters have stripped the shirts off their back.  It’s all sweat in The Brightside’s pit. 

Talbot pauses for the moment to speak about Australia Day.  He acknowledges he has little to comment but wants us to consider the celebration.  He welcomes a friend who’s endured the front of the mosh onto the stage.  She speaks on behalf of the Australians in the room, stating that though we live in a beautiful country, it has been stripped from its original people.  She acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the Land before stepping back into the mosh.  IDLES play Love Song and White Privilege.  A fitting moment to pay our respects and acknowledge the controversy around January 26.

The crowd refuses to settle as the set continues.  Mini circle pits form, limbs are thrown into the air and various band members jump into the crowd.  It’s a joyous ruckus.  Crowd members soon join IDLES on stage.  Bowen and Kiernan give their guitars over to those who have jumped on stage, allowing them a break to dance and shout along.  The stage was already looking full as more people jump up for a dance with the sweaty Englishmen.  IDLES soon transition from their track to a myriad of different covers, yelling out lyrics to The Chats’ Smoko, which is soon accompanied by Eamon Sandwith of The Chats fame.  Smoko moves into a chaotic cover of what I think is Thunderstruck.  All I hear amongst the ruckus is “na na na na thunder.” The crowd go ape shit.

IDLES close their set with Well Done and Rottweiler, the latter’s noisy, cacophonous instrumental reignites any remaining energy in the crowd.  They push back and forwards like a devilish wave, this amount of energy hasn’t been seen since Colossus as the start of the set.  Talbot screams his final lyrics and walks off stage, leaving his bandmates to create noisy mayhem.  Screeches and squeals piece the air as IDLES let out one final roar. 

I walk out of The Brightside with a shirt half a kilo heavier than what I walked in with.  The thirty-degree heat feels like ice against my body. I am saturated with sweat.  My ears are ringing.  My shoes are wet.  IDLES have put on one helluva set, and they are only going to get bigger and bigger.  And when they start to pack out bigger venues, I will look back fondly at the time where I was thrown around in the mosh in a humble Brisbane venue. 

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