To Die By Your Side

Idlewild – Wolverhampton Slade Rooms 23/04/2010

April 26th, 2010

There’s something a little disconcerting about seeing Idlewild in the Wolverhampton Slade Rooms. It may be named after Wolverhampton’s most famous Christmas soundtracking sons, but this is the new Little Civic by any other name. The emphasis being on little. With a maximum capacity of 200, Idlewild are hardly drawing the crowds they once did. To make things worse, looking around, it doesn’t even seem to be sold out. I’m almost certain Idlewild won’t have played anywhere this small since their early days. Certainly not to so few people. I may not be the only one thinking this way. Three songs in and Roddy Woomble makes a bemused comment on how small the stage is and throughout the set, he stands to the side of the stage, giving the rest of the band space when he’s not singing.

Not that size seems to matter to Idlewild. Not in terms of their performance anyway. Their egos may well be dented by the lack of attention they seem to get these days but it doesn’t stop them delivering a great show. Maybe it’s just the thrill of seeing a favourite band so close up, but tonight feels like one of the best Idlewild performances I’ve seen them give. The wild abandon, once a staple part of their live incarnation, is no longer apparent, the band appearing strangely subdued and static. But while the scrappy fury of their early days has subsided, it’s been replaced by a determination and focus. The rough edges of their earlier songs have been smoothed but they’ve lost none of the power or passion. If anything, some of them have benefited from it. ‘Film For The Future’ sounds bigger and tougher than ever, transformed from a petulant punk song into a full on rock anthem. ‘Annihilate Now’ takes the weedy adolescence rage of it’s early incarnation and gives it some muscle to back up the sentiment. Maturity and experience has brought with it a real ability to play these songs and to play them to their strengths.

Where once Idlewild hid their tunes beneath walls of noise and shouting, tonight they celebrate them. The hooks sound bigger. The melodies clearer. The tunes more defined. ‘When I Argue I See Shapes’ is 3 minutes of pure pop perfection. ‘Readers And Writers’ fits in the set so comfortably you’d think it had been there for years. ‘You Held The World In Your Arms’ sounds like a lost classic and you can’t help but wonder how a band with songs this good can possibly be playing to such a small crowd.

Only once do Idlewild stumble. An awkward ‘You And I Are Both Away’ causes momentum to stumble briefly. One of their weaker tunes on record, here it struggles to get going and the band never seem to get full control of it. It is however a mere blip and a quick succession of Idlewild standards puts things back on track. After that, the rest of the set never puts another foot wrong. It takes a while for the crowd to lose their inhibitions but by the time ‘In Remote Part/Scottish Fiction’ goes from soft ballad to it’s intense post rock finale, the front of the crowd are a frenzied leaping, shoving mass.

Songs from the latest album showed their faces, sounding equally relevant but it is the familiar favourites that drew the biggest cheers. Drawing heavily on their back catalogue, Idlewild deliver a set that throws few surprises but more than satisfies the collected fans. Which is all very well but it may go some way to explaining the venue in Idlewild find themselves playing.

Setlist: Younger Than America / Listen To What You’ve Got / Readers & Writers / When I Argue I See Shapes / Film For The Future / No Emotion / You And I Are Both Away / These Wooden Ideas / Roseability / Quiet Crown / Love Steals Us From Loneliness / City Hall / Future Works Play / Annihilate Now! / Everyone Says You’re So Fragile / Little Discourage / Encore: Too Long Awake / You Held The World In Your Arms / A Modern Way Of Letting Go / In Remote Part-Scottish Fiction

**UPDATE** Since writing this review, Idlewild have announced that they are to enter a period of hiatus. A real shame but honestly, not a massive surprise. Read the official statement here.

Idlewild – the quiet crowd (live session version) original version available on ‘100 Broken Windows’

Filed Under Live Review, Music

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