Sheffield Plug
30th November
Live Review


Forgive me for tubthumping but I feel really spoiled by Roddy Woomble this year. The 24th of July saw the release of his warmly received and achingly lovely solo album 'My Secret is My Silence', an album which saw the spirited folk influences which have haunted his band's recent output given their head with the aid of a who's who of UK roots music. And now this, a winter tour to warm the cockles of the stolid fanbase of his 'day job band' Idlewild.

A tour which itself provides telling evidence for the healthiness of a hiatus and self interest for a band's longevity. Striking fast and hard with the crowd pleasing 'Roseability' this Idlewild is immediately the superior to that which I saw towards the tail end of promotion of last album 'Warnings/Promises'. Gone is the timidity in the reaction to songs such as 'El Capitan' and 'Love Steals Us From Loneliness', stripped of their orchestral bombast and siting themselves nicely in the top tier of the band's multi layered anthem tiara. Each old hit is played with the passion with which it was initially committed to paper and greeted with partisan gusto by a crowd savouring the high life array of treats. Tonight this was Idlewild playing with us, throwing away 'When I Argue I See Shapes' early on in the set and lining up song after song to equal its usual unparalleled singalong greatness. Tonight centre stage was given to rarely played gems such as '100 Broken Windows' hushed anchors 'Bronze Medal' and 'Quiet Crown', whose refrain '...what should I take with me to the North?' was sung with equal vim as the more obvious choruses of 'Modern Way of Letting Go' and 'American English'.

And what of new songs? New hits. You read that right. This is the band who seem to have rediscovered their oeuvre of writing turbo-charged intellecto-pop rock thunderbolts. 'If It Takes You Home' immediately looks at home with the most top rate of Idlewild's bloodthirsty viscera while a song which Roddy proudly boasts 'has a little disco feel' has exactly that and won't sound out of place amongst this cloud of punk funk/new rave gubbins that everyone's taking drugs about nowadays, except it'll still sound like a band who were this good 10 years ago, not in short pants. Some such as 'Ghosts in the Arcade' tread with the shadow of recent output with a Wilco influence on their sleeve and are a winsome treat. Allan Stewart's guitar seems to now perfectly complement that of stalwart Rod Jones.

The sound in the futuristic (complete with merch hatch!) Plug venue is a trifle loud on occasions and doesn't allow the 'blend' of songs to be completely identifiable, though I know them already and this wasn't as huge a problem as it was with the support act. The wonderfully high stage may be the bane of my photographer chum but allows a good vantage for all and must feel like playing atop a Highland Munro. In nostalgic terms this was amongst my gigs of the year and also in terms of future promise. I just hope it won't be spoiled by lazy hacks obsessed with Athens Georgia's top export come album release date, I left licking my lips and with a very happy taste in my mouth and for once it wasn't just the cherry beer.

John McGee

Image copyright - Nick Pickles

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