"I wish you could feel what I feel, it's magical": Idles feel the love at joyous homecoming show in Bristol

Idles may have traded aggression and abrasion for melody and mindfulness on new album Tangk, but they're still a thrillingly liberating force of nature live

(Image: © Jim Dyson/Getty Images)

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Once self-described as "the noise rock Nickelback", Idles now feel more akin to a next-gen Nirvana as they subvert expectations with fifth album Tangk.

Playing "outstore" events across the weekend in small venues to support the album, the Bristol band trade away much of the abrasion and aggro elements of their early music in favour of exploring their more melodic inclinations through a prism of post... well, everything, taking shades of post-punk, grime, trip hop and more, covering almost all of their new record alongside choice hits of the past. 

Twinkling pianos signal the band's arrival onstage at The Marble Factory to Tangk opener Idea 01, but as the crowd scream in adulation frontman Joe Talbot is a surprisingly subdued force early on. His usual bulldog yap is traded for gentle crooning and an emotional candour that sheds light not only on the songs played - dedicated to friends, family, fans and "the people that helped me through my addiction" - but also to the sense of vulnerability laced throughout Tangk and its predecessor Crawler. It's a stark contrast to the at-times guarded way he interacts in interviews, addressing everything from mental health to the on-going situation in the Middle East, shouting "long live Palestine" and frequently dropping references into songs to leave no sense of ambiguity on his feelings.

"40 minutes before stage-time, I had my first panic attack in a long time," he reveals, receiving roars of support and cries of "We love you!" from the crowd.

"But you lot have helped me through that," he continues. "I wish you could feel what I feel - it's fucking magical."

For all the deliberate left turns of Tangk - crooning openers, jazz interludes, ambient melodies - Idles haven't turned their back on the noise elements that helped propel them into the spotlight. New songs Gift Horse and Hall & Oates are still very much cut from the same cloth as earlier favourites Mother, Mr Motivator and I'm Scum, Gift Horse earning as ecstatic a reaction as the other songs when it pops up early in the set. 

By the time Mother arrives Idles hit a stride that is recognisable for its infectious energy, Talbot jogging on the spot as if suddenly galvanised by a lightning bolt to the spine. Equally, guitarist Lee Kiernan is an irrepressible force throughout the set, dancing and gyrating on-stage and eagerly leaping out into the crowd with joyous abandon. 

The Idles of 2024 pace themselves, the cool-downs of songs like Gratitude, Pop Pop Pop and A Gospel lending a sense of ebb and flow dynamism that reflects a band eyeing the long game. With the elements still relatively new, it's hardly surprising that they haven't perfected the gear-shifts yet - sometimes letting a raring crowd's energy dip - but Idles are still undeniably vital when it comes to live performances.

That much is plainly writ in the joyous expressions on the faces of an impressively mixed-age crowd, teens yelping and bouncing to Never Fight A Man With A Perm alongside the faintly anguished faces of older audience members who almost audibly groan at the command to "Get down!" during I'm Scum. 

You don't need to hear the dozens of bands aping their elements and bass-heavy tones to explore the sonic and mental landscape of post-Brexit Britain (Brexpop?) to recognise that Idles remain one of the biggest rock success stories of this new decade, a galvanising force to behold, offering a liberation that is infectious. 

Therein lies their magic; on a miserable, rainy Saturday afternoon in a converted warehouse clad in ominous razor wire, Idles still feel like one of Britain's most exciting and essential bands, an imperfect but essential vehicle for joyous expression and communal exorcism for everything going wrong with the world. With elections looming, nothing is guaranteed, but either way Idles look to be a band to soundtrack the future. 

Tangk is out now via Partisan. For a full list of Idles' upcoming gigs, visit their official website.

Idles setlist The Marble Factory, Feb. 17, 2024

Idea 01
Gift Horse
Car Crash
Mr Motivator
Pop Pop Pop
I'm Scum
The Wheel
Hall & Oates
A Gospel
Never Fight A Man With A Perm
Danny Nedelko

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.