I can’t help but feel that doing nablopomo this year has been like making a condensed version of my blog. So, really I need to write a gig review and a 2000 word academic film review before the end of the month and I’m golden! Maybe, not, but I did go to a gig on Wednesday night so it only feels right to review it.
I’ve had several conversations lately about feeling like a grown up or just plain feeling your age. I think I’ve found the definitive moment for me. The last time I saw Idlewild I was about 14 (I was a T in the Park with my dad and we caught the tail end of their set) and at their gig on Wednesday night I spotted a young boy, maybe 12 or 13 also at the gig with his dad, and thought he’s about the age I was when I first saw them…and realised that that meant he’s been on the planet for less time than its been since I last saw the band live. Yeah. Otherwise the audience was mostly my age and older which probably tells you both when they were at their peak of success and how long its been since they last released an album. The crowd were enthusiastic but a little restrained – the bouncing was gentler than I expected.
There is something decidedly unnerving about turning up for an indie-rock gig only for the ‘support’ act to be seriously folky and mellow. I did have some serious cognitive dissonance as I recognised first that the song they were playing was These Wooden Ideas and then that the lead singer looked awfully like Roddy Woomble… I did a fair bit of mental scrambling from remembering that one of the guys in the band had a rather folky side project (I was sure, and have since confirmed that it was Rod Jones I was thinking about) and wondering if they were supporting Idlewild on tour, to being increasingly sure that this was in fact Idlewild, just not as I knew them. It was good, just not very…Idlewild-y? I knew they’d seriously mellowed out over the years, I hadn’t realised it was by this much. However, several songs into the set they thanked everyone for turning up early for their acoustic set and all became clear, so I was able to relax and enjoy the strangeness in time for them to do In Remote Part/Scottish Fiction which holds a special place in my heart in general but felt particularly apt in these troubled times. And the guitarist did a fine job of simulating crunchy guitars on an acoustic instrument!
I was a bit uncertain of how it was going to be until they kicked into Roseability and the crowd started singing the refrain back at them. (After all these years, I’m still not entirely certain what exactly Gertrude Stein said was enough…) The band have mellowed out quite a bit since their early ‘a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs’ day – they will always be the band that got live gigs banned in my old student union for the best part of four years, even if everyone I know who was actually in attendance is a bit baffled as to why that gig prompted the ban – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Watching them live, you can still see the shadows of the band they used to be – there were moments, especially during When I Argue I See Shapes and You Held The World in Your Arms when the instrumentals got louder and punkier than expected, when the feedback loop of older songs and audience familiarity with and enjoyment of those songs threatened to pull them back in time. I like the newer mellower stuff, just as much as the older punkier stuff, and listening to Roddy sing I suspect that at least some of that change is that the punkier stuff was probably shredding his voice a bit. (There’s a man who knows how far he can push his voice and sings to that point and no further.) Honestly I’ll take a mellower incarnation of the band, if the trade off is his voice surviving for another ten years of albums and gigs.
I always forget how many excellent tunes they have, and it was a rare treat to be at a gig and think they’d played all the songs I was hoping they’d play only for them to crash into another brilliant and well-loved tune. I might wish I’d managed to see them as a student (c. In Remote Part) but I can’t regret in the slightest having gone to see them, even on a Wednesday night, in packed venue, with a crowd of people having just as much fun and having just as few regrets about how tired we’ll all be at work in the morning.