Idles + Heavy Lungs @ O2 Institute, 26th October 2018

Given the justified praise and acclaim heaped on Idles so far during this tour it is not an easy job to construct a review without it becoming an exercise in repetition. So lets make this about me!

For several years I was convinced that around the corner there will be a band that hits all the spots for me and creates something truly special. Sure there are a lot of exciting bands around but in the process of reinventing the wheel there tends to be some things missing. Those elements are  passion and purpose.

With the release of Idle’s Brutalism and Anthony “Melon” Fantano’s famous review of that album I was sure that I was on to something at last. The band toured that album but studiously ignored any opportunity I would have to see them, regardless of my playing the thing to death.

Hot on the heels of Brutalism came this year’s Joy As An act of Resistance. As I wrote at the time this album was the sniper rifle to Brutalism’s blunderbuss. Things were warming up. Racists, Sexists, Bullies, Body-shamers, even the whole of Society’s view of men; all opened and laid bare on the dissecting table with laser precision.  It’s marvellous stuff, especially with an awkward Later… performance thrown in. It was awkward because they are saying things others will not. In a harking back to the late 70s and early 80s they just don’t give a damn.

The purpose is what you feel from the band in the live setting and right from the off. They opened with Colossus, the crescendo of protest against toxic masculinity that kept the audience on tenterhooks, waiting for the fast bit, the flying beer and the mayhem. It was a breathtaking start. That other missing element, the passion, proves to be a two-way thing; band and crowd feeding off each other. Keeping to the theme, Never Fight a Man With a Perm was next with Joe Talbot railing against the numbskull body-builders that roam the land, the media, pubs and clubs: You’re not a man, you’re a gland. You’re one big neck with sausage hands The chorus Concrete to leather nearly had the roof off. Everyone believes in the messages.

None of this stuff is presented as a blunt instrument regardless of the caustic approach. These lyrics are clever and funny, again with that laser focus. There is nowhere to hide for the subject of the song. Immigration got the works next with Danny Nedelko, and with the line He’s made of you, he’s made of me, the man himself took to the stage. I was thinking does this happen every night?

Idles have created a sense of community around their music. Even on Facebook as the AF Gang group who seemed well represented on the night. A load of them negotiated pedantic security to invade the stage during Exeter, and 1049 Gotho, a warning about that big black ominous cloud that could consume all of us, was dedicated to the group.

Some of what went on was as expected, the pounding excellence of Adam “Dev” Devonshire and Jon Beavis was transferred to the live setting, Mark “Bobo” Bowen and Lee Kiernan invaded the crowd several times, and Joe Talbot was the ring master, the conductor, pacing around and geeing everyone up even though he felt as if he was in court. To be fair The Institute does have a touch of the judge Nutmegs about it.

What was unexpected was the twenty minute wall of sound at the end of Rottweiler that Kevin Shields would have been drooling over. Rottweiler was dedicated to UB40. Some people around me though this was in jest but the truth is Signing Off was just as radical, just as full or purpose and its own kind or passion as  Joy As An act of Resistance. Not for the first time it had me thinking that there are a lot parallels between those times and now.

A mention should go to the support Heavy Lungs. Some good tunes, a slightly manic frontman and load of noise; what more could you want. Strangely the live vocals reminded me a bit of early Eagulls, which is not how Heavy Lungs sound when recorded at all. It was their last night on the tour and the regulars who had followed Idles all over showed their appreciation. Their brand of distorted punk was a great opener.

But Idles were special. That extra something makes them stand way out from what is a pretty decent set of cross genre bands these days. When something like this appears it makes me glad that protest songs have not gone away and there are still people willing to stick their heads above the parapet.

Idles Set List


Never Fight a Man With a Perm


Faith in the City

I’m Scum

Danny Nedelko (with Danny Nedelko on stage)

Gram Rock

Divide & Conquer


1049 Gotho (Dedicated to the AF Gang)




Love Song

Exeter (with Stage Invasion)

Cry To Me (Solomon Burke cover)

Well Done

Rottweiler (Dedicated to UB40)


Reviewer: Ian Gelling

Photographer: Katja Ogrin

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