Idlewild are not about fun, as such. They are, despite many bashed instruments and bruised bodies, not about the high-jinxed recreational vandalism of say, Symposium, with whom they unjustly share a thesaurus entry or two. In fact, what with all the flushed prose that has flowed in Idlewild’s name since their Lamacq-rotated indie debut about a year ago, you would be forgiven for mistaking Idlewild for a Symposium with better references. Both young, both punky, both jumpy-up-and-downy; and both known for outbreaks of exuberance beyond the call of duty in these times of po-faced Remorse Rock.
But this display of frenzied, anxious beauty is a whole paradigm away from the safe tantrums of the sprog-rock punk-pop vocabulary. Take ‘Annihilate Now’, possibly the sweetest tune ever to invoke total Armageddon. It’s Idlewild’s most radio-friendly moment so far; what with Roddy Woomble’s sing-song vocal and a gentle riff that builds into a wall of furry Pixies noise. But it’s a good-time tune with an uneasy heart. When Roddy sings, “I know you’re supposed to do/Things you don’t want to do/Why?/Why?/Why?” tonight, it’s no hamfisted primal scream, but rather a simple, somewhat hurt enquiry and all the more haunting for it.
Similarly, ‘Last Night I Missed All The Fireworks’ thrashes around with apparent dumb good nature, with bassist Bob headbanging in fast-forward and Roddy mainly airborne. But the look on Roddy’s face as he spits the words out suggests events other than mere pretty lights are involved. This unease that defines Idlewild comes to a head with ‘Captain’, the sublime title track of Idlewild’s last record. This time, though, you can’t search Roddy’s face for clues – he’s wrapped in a foetal position around the base of the mic stand, screaming. “I’D RATHER/THAT THESE WERE NOT MY WORDS!” he gargles, as 400 guitars rend the air and the wall of girls at the foot of the stage erupts in a wave of hair.
And you know he’s talking about something far, far worse than putting his foot in his mouth. Which – ho, ho – he actually comes close to doing several times, such is his relationship with the floor of the stage. It’s the measure of Idlewild’s aceness that Roddy can spend as much time hollering meaningfully at the carpet as he does hanging precariously off his mic stand and not look a fraud. The rest of Idlewild head progressively floorwards, too, as the set seethes towards its conclusion. ‘You Just Have To Be Who You Are’, their raucous send-off, sees bassist Bob so comically spread-legged he’s nearly performing gymnastics.
Rod, meanwhile, is splayed-kneed on the ground, vigorously chewing on his guitar. The guitar, obviously, is howling back. It’s a hefty name to live up to, but in this respect Idlewild do recall Nirvana’s live heyday: all unselfconscious, wracked adrenaline, and no thought for chiropractors’ bills. And Lord knows Nirvana weren’t here just for fun, either. Idlewild’s new single points subtly towards their legacy, too: ‘Film For The Future’ audibly organises their delightfully ragged songwriting into something more presentable. It stands out proudly tonight, casually featuring a quiet bit with some worried bass, just like Novoselic used to make.
But by the time Idlewild stumble offstage for the last time, comparisons, however weighty, cease to matter. They’ve taught by example: you just have to be who you are. Which, in Idlewild’s case, is an urgent, original force brimming with intelligent contradiction – oh, and a sublime prospect to get transcendentally sweaty over. It has been far more than just fun. Believe us.