“Fuck it!” IDLES‘ frontman Joe Talbot playfully declares, only to be answered by taunting shouts from EartH Hackney’s restless crowd.
The gaggle of art punks are stomping their way through ‘The New Sensation’ – a satirical dance pop number from their six-day-old fourth album ‘Crawler’ – and the singer’s butchered his own lyrics. “’Play a promotional show,’ they said,” he jokes once the marching drums and squealing guitars have silenced, begetting a chorus of cheers. “‘It’ll be fun,’ they said.”
It’s the Bristolians’ ability to charismatically find positivity in the face of struggle that’s made them one of the most adored bands in the country. Since debuting with 2017’s ‘Brutalism’ they’ve savaged Brexit, NHS underfunding and toxic masculinity with lyrics that champion unity and honesty above all else. Though it largely replaced sociopolitical rants with a personal narrative about escaping substance abuse, even ‘Crawler’ was designed as a device to help recovering addicts feel less alone. Aptly, an atmosphere of togetherness swiftly permeates the album’s release show.
Opener ‘MTT 420 RR’ creeps forward driven by Adam Devonshire’s bass; its hums of “it was February; I was cold and I was high” are sung along to by a 1,200-capacity club that sold out in just four minutes. ‘The Wheel’ subsequently marries punk and doom metal – the rhythm section scurries as Talbot barks, while Mark Bowen’s guitar slowly booms – answered by a circle pit that strengthens through ‘Mr Motivator’ and ‘Grounds’.
Of course, the band are all too willing to indulge the gleeful mayhem. After instigating a wall of death during ‘Never Fight a Man with a Perm’, they can’t resist joining in spectacularly after ‘Love Song’. Bowen hops atop the railing, yelling the refrain of Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’, before fellow guitarist Lee Kiernan plays in the heart of the carnage encircled by running fans.
The dynamic flips during the last song of the night, ‘Rottweiler’. Talbot invites a young fan to invade the band’s space for the finale, fetching a drum so she can play alongside the quintet before diving back into the madness.
Critics have long dismissed IDLES’ “us vs them” lyrics as platitudes, but tonight’s communal anarchy is a distillation of the band’s ideals. The border between musician and audience is routinely decimated, resulting in 90 uplifting and lawless minutes in the capital.
‘MTT 420 RR’
‘When the Lights Come On’
‘The New Sensation’
‘The Beachland Ballroom’
‘Never Fight a Man With a Perm’