A welcome return to gigging action for perennial “live” favourites Idlewild; my 12th time overall tonight, but the first for something approaching 7 years! In the interim, they’d released a low-key album then taken a sabbatical to pursue solo projects (one rather unpleasant upshot of this being a campaign by some so-called “fans” to boycott said solo endeavours to force Idlewild to reform… hmm…). However, they’re now back with a new album, “Everything Ever Written”, which adds a noted folkier dimension to Idlewild’s chameleonic, often windswept, often frantic, but always dramatic and intriguing REM-like alt-rock. Unfortunately, Camden’s rejuvenated Roundhouse was the closest venue an accompanying tour came to the ‘don, so it meant some logistical rejigging for Idlewild uber-fan Rachel and myself!
So, I was “Harry Half-Day”, Grandma had the kids, and I picked Rach up after her course, hitting the road at 4 and electing to park up at the Bush and tube it over. Hit the quiet early doors Roundhouse at 7.30, Rach immediately snapping up merch before we headed into the wide main space of this ornate and beautifully appointed former engine shed. Sorren McLean opened the show at 8 to a ripple of interest from a filling crowd; he and his 5-piece band played some understated, initially atmospheric slow burn stuff, which, combined with McLean’s low, conversational vocals, recalled “Graceland”-era Paul Simon, or a Death Cab For Cutie hailing from the Outer Hebrides rather than Silicon Valley. It veered into fiddly diddly finger picking trad rootsy folk a bit too much for my taste, but ‘twas an ok support overall.
The place filled up dramatically afterwards, full of really tall blokes too, and it was proper old school rammed for this sell-out show, even from our ¾ back central vantage point, as Idlewild took the stage prompt at 9 to searchlights and moody intro music. Opener “Nothing I Can Do About It”, from the new album, crept in almost apologetically, before suddenly and impressively roaring into life. Vocalist Roddy Woomble announced, “there’s a lot of you here tonight, where have you all been?” before a rambunctious “You Held The World In Your Arms”, but it took the “Murmur”-era REM backwards guitar riff of oldie “Little Discourage”, fourth number in, to really kick the gig into gear, a mad moshpit breaking out.
Idlewild clearly had a plan for this evening and executed it to perfection. The gig was the epitome of “perfectly paced”, swapping between more low-key, often folk-tinged new album material and the more familiar oldies, fast and slow, breathless and restive, light and shade, showcasing their entire canon of work and their versatility. So we varied from the slow-burn, plaintive “Every Little Thing Means Trust”, Roddy bolting on a fat acoustic for this one, then a searing “Roseability” (prior to which, some moron reeking of beer took exception to the fact I wouldn’t – couldn’t – move to let him through, another fellow punter remarking to me, “you’ve got the patience of a saint, mate,” after the idiot had manhandled me then backed off, still complaining), a touching yet jumpabout “Live In A Hiding Place” (causing guitarist Rod Jones to warn, “be careful when you jump around – we’re not getting any younger!), then a hushed “Quiet Crown” segueing into the frantic new wave bleeps and yelps of oldie but goldie “Captain”.
A slow, towering “Love Steals Us From Loneliness” was great, but merely a prelude, as an anthemic, singalong “American English” really raised the roof, the crowd filling the denouement as Roddy paused. Superb stuff, but that was even topped by an utterly brilliant “El Capitan”, soaring and haunting in equal measure, Roddy taking the time to savour the moment. An encore of a stripped back “Too Long Awake” was also stunning, the line “I’ve been too long away” being totally apt, before a frantic “Modern Way” and the slow-burn of “The Remote Part”, building to an impressive crescendo, finished a superb set.