Our 10th overall Idlewild gig, and 7th in 22 months, nevertheless came one year after this band of Scottish reprobates formed the impromptu soundtrack to our honeymoon, elevating themselves in the process to the ranks of the truly great bands in our eyes. However, we were surprised that they were tackling such a small venue as the Fleece, and theories abounded. New line-up? New material? Just not that popular anymore? Nah, not the last one; this gig pretty much sold out immediately!
So Rach and I hit the road at 7.15, hitting a soggy Bristol for 8 and finding a rapidly filling venue. Took a spot by the merch stand, halfway back, stage left, for Bristol’s own Fortune Drive at 9. Harder rocking and more in your face than I remembered, the first few numbers impressed, but they then descended into overlong noisy self-indulgence. An impressive vocalist and a couple of good numbers do not a band make, despite the predictably rapturous hometown response.
The PA oddly played Dire Straits’ stadium megabore "Money For Nothing", which saw Idlewild taking the stage. Roddy however was at pains to point out, "this is NOT our entrance music!"
However, they were straight on it – into an opening salvo of "I Am What I Am Not" and "Roseability". And salvo was the right term for it; this was very much like their US sets of a year ago, raw, harder-edged and visceral. Playing to the hard-core fan base packed into the Fleece, they could let their frayed edges show, and it made for a more thrilling, exciting and wholly worthwhile live experience. Roddy was equally relaxed in this situation; occasionally a little reluctant onstage, and painfully shy on the couple of occasions we got to talk to him in California, Idlewild’s vocalist and mainman was tonight effusive, bantering with the audience throughout, recalling previous Fleece gigs ("I forgot about the pillars!") and generally being personable Rod. As if the folky interlude of his solo CD hadn’t mellowed him, but more purged that element of his music – now he and his band wanted to rock!
Thus they did – 4 new numbers only (as advised by drummer Colin, who remembered us from San Fran, during a pre-gig chat) punctuated a rocking set of their anthemic, REM-like thoughtful and crafted recent material, and their breathless, amphetamine-fast oldies. The new bassist fitted seamlessly in as they delivered a brilliant hour-plus set, with a soaring "American English" and a stunning "Modern Way Of Letting Go" my highlights. They’re back in Bristol in March – at the Academy this time. Hopefully, we’ll be there too!