Idlewild + Liela Moss @ O2 Institute, 28th April 2019

Much-loved Scottish alt-rockers Idlewild have shown many different faces over the course of their career, from their early punk beginnings to the REM-inspired rock of their commercial peak and on to the folkier sounds that permeate through their later material. With new album ‘Interview Music’ one of their most diverse offerings to date, which side of Idlewild would we see on stage tonight?

Progressive opener ‘Dream Variations’ perhaps doesn’t narrow things down too much, with chugging guitars and a spacey keyboard line vying for attention with singer Roddy Woomble’s typically abstract lyrics and a psychedelic coda, but it does establish Idlewild’s intention to crank up the volume this evening. Old singles ‘Roseability’ and ‘You Held The World In Your Arms’ certainly deliver on this front, greeted as classics by the crowd and played with a rejuvenated energy from the band, especially guitarist Rod Jones who spends much of the set jumping and running around the stage playing his guitar as if it were red hot. In contrast, Roddy’s calm stage presence and softly-spoken introductions make for an interesting dynamic, and when he’s not required to sing he often makes his way to the sides of the stage to quietly observe his bandmates and the audience, nodding approvingly. “Thank you for coming out to see us on a Sunday evening” he tells the crowd, making light of the difference in demographic for the rap show downstairs.

New songs ‘Interview Music’ and ‘There’s A Place For Everything’ rely on keyboardist Lucci to provide a more expansive sound, but returning guitarist Allan Stewart ensures that old favourite ‘Little Discourage’ and 2014’s “comeback single” ‘Collect Yourself’ have that extra bit of noisy bite to them. Roddy reveals that Idlewild’s first gig outside of Scotland took place in Birmingham and shows appreciation to the fans who have stuck with the band over the years, who repay him by singing back loudly to the anthemic ‘Live In A Hiding Place’ and ‘Love Steals Us From Loneliness’. “I love it when you sing!” he encourages, seemingly enjoying himself more the further the set goes on, with new album highlight ‘Same Things Twice’ re-channeling the power of the band’s earlier material. Perhaps the biggest reaction is saved for a soaring ‘American English’ though, where Roddy lets the audience sing part of the chorus on their own. It’s also interesting to see tracks like ‘When I Argue I See Shapes’ re-tooled to suit the current lineup and freshen it up a bit before ‘El Capitan’ rounds things off.

For their encore, Idlewild choose to revisit some of their heavier old singles, ‘Everyone Says You’re So Fragile’ and ‘A Film For The Future’ updated with a more refined energy with much less reckless and punk rock than in 1998 but treated with an affection and respect that the crowd seem to appreciate. ‘A Modern Way Of Letting Go’ has the place bouncing one last time before signature closer ‘Scottish Fiction/In Remote Part’ ends with Roddy walking offstage as the rest of the band bring the song to a highly-charged instrumental climax. It’s not quite full-circle for the band, but it does feel like they’ve become much more comfortable with celebrating their history, and in doing so found the key to moving forwards.

First on tonight is Liela Moss with a dramatic set that echoes some of PJ Harvey’s more dark and intense material. Best known as the singer of London indie band The Duke Spirit, Liela performs songs from her solo debut ‘My Name Is Safe In Your Mouth’, beginning with the sparse ‘Subequal’. Her vocals stand out on downbeat tracks such as ‘Above You, Around You’ and ‘Wild As Fire’ as she commands the stage, lifting her microphone stand up and dancing whilst her backing band largely lurk in the shadows. The set begins to gain momentum fast with more instant tracks like ‘Salutations’ before ending abruptly, but it’s an excellent performance which is well received by the crowd.

Review: Ian Paget
Photos: Ian Dunn


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