IDLES wear its heart on tattered sleeve


Sydney Laput

Lee Kiernan, guitarist for rock band IDLES, rushes into the crowd with his guitar during the group’s performance on the Bud Light Seltzer stage on Saturday.

By Aidan Sadovi, Staff Writer

The fighter enters. Pacing back and forth like a caged tiger, he stares ahead with a look of quiet and menacing ferocity. He twirls his weapon like a gladiator’s chain before finally settling down a bit. He spits but doesn’t break his gaze. 

The fighter is Joe Talbot of the British band, IDLES, and his weapon of choice is a microphone. Though a singer, to say he is anything less than a fighter would be wrong. 

Talbot and IDLES performed an explosive set at the Bud Light Seltzer stage on the evening of Saturday, July 30, showing off the skill and sheer power of one of the best live bands around and letting a wired crowd get a taste of Talbot and company in all their frenetic, hard-edged and scarily charismatic glory. 

“You knew right when he walked out that it was going to go nuts,” said Nathan Alfultis of Chicago after the show. 

Jeremiah Ever, an Iowa native and a longtime fan of the UK-based band, called it the “best show he’s ever seen” and the reason he drove all this way.  

“I love that energy they bring,” he said. “They’re just so raw, dude.” 

IDLES’ music is brooding and angry but doggedly accepting and progressive, much like the band’s members themselves. Their biggest and arguably best hits, songs like “Mother” and “Danny Nedelko,” delve into the scourge of sexual violence against women and the struggles of immigrants, respectively with fresh and catchy lyrics that emphasize righteous anger at institutions and figures that leave little for others.

Talbot sings — but more often growls and shouts — politically overt and sloganeering lyrics in the thick accent of a Welsh stevedore while guitarists Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan play a ripping, chainsaw-style guitar that cuts into the thick and menacing rhythm section of drummer Jon Beavis and Adam Devonshire, or “Dev” as the band calls him. 

Talbot and the band came out to the creeping darkness of the song “Colossus” as Beavis played a slow and ominous marching rhythm with Devonshire’s bass, which sounded eight-feet thick and hypnotizing. 

As Talbot paced, his black-button down was already getting a little darker as the show started, he looked at the audience and nodded with a crazed look, looking like he was staring down an opponent in the ring.

Shouts of  “I love you, Joe” came from the audience. Somebody near the front compared the frontman to Charles Manson. 

Starting with the song “Mr Motivator,” Bowen got the crowd riled with the sputtering and catchy guitar riffs that snake throughout so many of IDLES’ tracks, which he played on a guitar half-made from clear glass. The way he plays makes the guitar seem to be more of a machine than an instrument, eliciting a rusty, almost engine-like sound as he swings it around his body while wearing a flowery sundress. 

The gritty and sometimes blunt lyrics of songs like “Mother,” shared a certain sincerity with the heartfelt words of Talbot throughout the show, who makes an effort to support and be one with fans rather than viewing them as simply ticks to be accrued before the next album release. One of the band’s major conceptual themes, other than a struggle against fascism and all forms of bigotry, is the idea of loving radically.

“A lover is someone who is willing to give themselves to another,” Talbot mused before a crowd growing increasingly large and subsumed into the show’s tight energy.

“Thank you for giving us love, I hope you feel it in return,” he added. 

The cathartic show showcased the boisterousness of the boys from Bristol, which filled with mosh pits and fans shouting lyrics back to the band, and it let some steam off when Talbot partook in a one-man sing-along of pop hits “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and “Since You’ve Been Gone.”

“That’s been stuck in my head all day. Do you know why? Because it’s really f****** good!” Talbot said of the Kelly Clarkson tune. 

Crowd surfing by both guitarists around the chanting section of the pro-immigrant song “Danny Nedelko” was a fittingly raucous end to the show, only beat by a discordant musical breakdown in final track, “Rottweiler.”

“This song is about what’s at the foundation of this country,” Talbot said. “Immigrants.” 

Early on in the show, Talbot asked the crowd to raise their hands if the Lollapalooza set was their first time seeing the English band in concert. Before Talbot could even get past the “raise your hand,” fans’ hands immediately shot up all across a filled Bud Light Seltzer stage. 

Talbot playfully admonished the crowd but looked somewhat bewildered at the influence he had already gained over a crowd so engrossed in the music. 


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