Live Review: Idles @ Project House Leeds

Thursday 22nd February 2024

On the eve of their fifth album Tangk, Bristolian noise merchants Idles are no longer young upstarts but elder statesmen on the British musical landscape. Having already established themselves as a fierce live band with a rabid following, this latest record could be the one that nudges the band further towards the mainstream – especially with super producers James Murphy and Nigel Godrich in tow.

To celebrate the release of this latest LP, Joe Talbot and co. scheduled two last-minute launch party shows at Project House on the outskirts of Leeds city centre. After lamenting the fact that we missed out on tickets to the matinee show and thus extending our bedtime beyond the usual time of 10:30 pm, my wife and I made the trip to Leeds on a freezing February Thursday to drink it all in…

The band take to the stage against the backdrop of atmospheric new song ‘Idea 01’ – a logical choice as it is indeed the album opener. ‘Gift Horse’ follows and it is striking to see how quickly the Idles fans have taken this new record to their hearts. When it comes to the final refrain of “All is love and love is all”, the whole crowd is bellowing along with Talbot while guitarist Mark Bowen, wearing a dress, of course, has already managed to find himself in some kind of hypnotic trance state – twitching and prowling across the stage. This show is not just about the new record, however, it is also a celebration of everything that has come before, and so, ‘Mr. Motivator’ crashes into view with Talbot suitably attired for the song with a headband and black t-shirt bearing the legend DON’T MESS WITH YORKSHIRE.

‘The Wheel’ proves to be the sole representative from the band’s 2020 offering Ultra Mono and it also provides the first big singalong moment. Indeed, the crowd are up for it from the first chord of the first song and it’s astonishing how much energy Idles create considering this is their second show of the evening. New song ‘Roy’ follows, a track that sees Talbot actually sing more than perhaps any other Idles track. It’s a punishing and bruising song that takes on an even greater power in a live setting.

Debut album Brutalism is on the cusp of celebrating its sixth anniversary and yet ‘Divide and Conquer’ still sounds as vital as ever before ‘Never Fight a Man With a Perm’ threatens to blow the roof off. This is my fifth time seeing Idles and while they have slightly lost the unpredictable menace of their early shows in which it really did feel like anything could happen (a trait shared with early shows by The Cribs and The Libertines) the band has gained in sheer power and raw energy. Idles feed off the crowd and vice versa.

New single and instant classic ‘Dancer’ sounds incredible in this relatively small venue, the probing, LCD Soundsystem-inspired guitar riff bouncing off the walls before fan favourite Rottweiler closes things out. It’s short. It’s sweet. It sums up the whole night. A tight, sweaty, contradictory, violent, compassionate mess. Glorious.