LIVE: IDLES @ Clifton Downs, Bristol

A reflective and triumphant IDLES realised how much Bristol missed them at their homecoming of hectic proportions.
Posted: 6 September 2021 Words: Verity Vincent Photos: Dominick Mortier

After a matinee show at Wide Awake festival in London, IDLES high-tailed it back to their hometown of Bristol for the cities’ most anticipated gig of the year. Aptly, their largest headline show to date, Joe, John, Bowen, Lee and Dev had treated fans to two intimate shows the week before at the legendary Louisiana, but Clifton Downs gave thousands the chance to see IDLES in action. 

'War' continues to be an opener for the band and for many, this will have been the first opportunity to hear songs from the 2020 release, Ultra Mono, in a live setting. As the unmistakable bars then kicked in for 'Never Fight a Man With a Perm' you knew the next hour-and-a-half was going to kick off. In the best way possible. It is always a shame with residential gigs that the volume is kept at a more respectable level, however the energy on and off stage was fully cranked. 

A huge signature IDLES banner hung behind drummer, John Beavis and Ed Warren delivered a spectacular light show that framed the band, visually taking the set to a new level and complementing the bands’ oomph.

No.1 hit 'Model Village' made it back into the setlist after being absent from the two gigs at the Loui. Talbot’s tone has been quite reflective in these recent shows and an awareness is definitely present on how the songs are perceived lyrically: “This song may be misconstrued as an aggro song about villages. It’s not. It’s a metaphor about England.”

Most of the tracks from IDLES' debut Brutalism are now left out of the bands setlists, with fan-favourites like ‘Well Done’ never hearing the light of day. ‘Mother’ however, always features as a touching tribute to Talbot's late mum. A thank you to the NHS shortly followed, not only for personal reasons, but the band had generously donated 2,000 tickets to NHS staff. They really are the nice guys of punk aren’t they? 

The crowd did as they were told and got low for 'Scum' - the participation didn’t stop there. After 'As' Joe kicked off a singalong to 'Wonderwall', shortly followed by a Bowen medley in the middle of 'Love Song', morphed with Sinead O’Connor's 'Nothing Compares 2 U', 'All I Want for Christmas is You' and The Cranberries classic, 'Linger'. As the night closed with 'Danke' there was a special feel in air. Fans congregated not only in the field, but on the helter-skelter and ferris wheel as festoon lighting brightened the sky. “Thank you very much for sticking around, Bristol" an appreciative Talbot confessed. I think IDLES are safe in the knowledge they won’t be going anywhere, however.

Prior to the main event, there were some major highlights, spread over three stages which would transform into Love Saves The Day festival for the rest of the weekend.  As a relatively small festival site you’re gifted with not much distance between stages and a central mashup of hearing the buzz from each stage. 

Heavy Lungs dominated the Paradiso stage as Danny Nedelko and the gang unleashed their speedy rock with tracks like '(A bit of a) Birthday' and 'Blood Brother'. As a staple Bristol band, HL’s have proved that their sound has legs and have built a huge following, in addition to their IDLES link. 

Anna Meredith created a buzzing atmosphere with her unique mix of banging instrumentals and delicate vocals, mostly taken from her latest album FIBS. 'Sawbones' set off a wave of bouncing around the field with its building synths and beat so deep you feel it vibrate in your belly. 

Manchester ensemble Working Men’s Club took the main stage to deliver their synth-pop sound and the crowd seemed divided. One in five must have been wearing an IDLES tee, patch or badge and didn’t whole-heartedly seem engaged. There were, however, a solid group of pit-ravers who couldn’t get enough of the pulsating drumbeats and heavy guitars, alongside vocalist Sydney’s sketchy persona, brimming with attitude and Ian Curtis-esque mannerisms. They journeyed through a repertoire including 'Valleys', 'John Cooper Clarke' and closed with their 2019 release, 'Teeth'. 

Jane Weaver has managed to dip her toes into the genres of folk, electro-folk and electro-dance pop, so this set was always going to great – particularly on an afternoon beaming with sunshine. Weaver delivered spot-on vocals and was perfectly placed at around 17:00 to get everyone suitably jazzed. 

As far as one-dayers go, this was a triumphant one. 

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