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IDLES at Kings Theater 09/15/22
By: Gabby Gagliano
IDLES has managed to bridge the gap between the globalized world and the isolated individuals that have been tricked into ensuring that it continues to run. With every power chord and bass hit, they call upon the primal and spiritual sides of us that have succumbed to the authority of the system to listen to their rallying in cries in hopes of sparking a revolution.
And what a particularly interesting time to be taking that message on a world tour.
Eight days after landing in North America for their first tour since releasing their junior album Ultra Mono in 2020, the queen of their homeland, a controversial figurehead in the eyes of the working class, had passed away. They way that they mourned at King’s Theater in Brooklyn was nothing less than expected: house lights go down, spotlight comes on, and just before Mark Bowen strikes the first hair-raising note to “Colossus,” Joe Talbot screeches into the microphone “FUCK THE KING.” The crowd responded with an equal level of enraged energy, and promptly opened up the pit.
King’s Theater, which holds about 3,000 people, gives off the aura of vastness and grandeur that is so unique to larger old-school venues, but there is still something so intimate and comforting about it’s high ceilings and golden ornamentation. It demands that you be respectful and mindful when observing the rarities that grace it’s stage, but it invites you to have a drink afterwards and discuss your thoughts on the performance; exactly the kind of openness and camaraderie that IDLES creates with their music. A perfect fit for a perfect storm.
Most times at larger venues, it is hard to connect with the musicians on stage. They’re busy pouring out their blood and guts to you as an audience member but you as a person are busy waiting in the beer line at Madison Square Garden that wraps halfway across the stadium. There’s a disconnect between what the artists are experiencing and what you are experiencing, and that is the exact opposite from what live music is supposed to be. There should be a direct flow of energy from the musicians and the audience members; you should be able to look the singer in the eyes and see the tears that they are holding back from the raw emotion that their music invokes in them.
IDLES had so much energy that evening that they had the crowd’s full and utter attention. When Joe was telling anecdotes or giving context to songs, you probably could’ve heard a pin drop. Nobody wanted to miss a word of what he was saying. He made the audience laugh, cry, scream in anger and fall in love with anarchy all at the same time. He was able to control the crowd in ways that even other musicians at smaller venues can’t: he is one in a million. His fearlessness in wearing his heart on his sleeve in front of a crowd of thousands of people is encapsulating. He does not write his lyrics in hope that other people will like them; he writes them because there are so many existential thoughts coming out of his head that he needs to get them out or he’ll explode. It just so happens that he says the things that the rest of us are afraid to say: things that call out the system for taking advantage of our naivety. Things that call out each other for not holding humanity accountable. He speaks to the very part of our brains that we are afraid of contacting, and he validates our fear for the future by letting us know that we are not alone: he is one of us, and he does what he does in order to help us.
IDLES could start a riot if they wanted to. IDLES could throw a coup if they wanted to. They have mobilized their fanbase into a social justice army that should make politicians afraid of their potential. Just the few opening lines of “Grounds” could start a revolution:
“You will not catch me staring at the sun
Not sucking on a dum dum
Not turning round to run
No Hallelujahs and no kingdom comes
So you will not catch me staring at the sun
Do you hear that thunder?
That’s the sound of strength in numbers
There’s nothing brave and nothing useful
You scrawling your aggro shit on the walls of the cubicle
Saying my race and class ain’t suitable
So I raise my pink fist and say black is beautiful
Do you hear that thunder?
That’s the sound of strength in numbers”
The decibels of sound that erupted from the crowd as they screamed this song along with Joe could’ve shattered glass.
Everyone in the audience became friends that evening. There was this mutual feeling of solidarity that emerged from the pit; no one had fallen. No one lost their phone or their group of friends. Everyone who wanted to crowd surf and give Lee Kiernan a hug while he was shredding a sick guitar solo during “Never Fight a Man with a Perm” got to. All puffs were passed and all shots were gunned. The level of cooperation and respect that the crowd had for the music and for their fellow IDLES fans is something to be admired: not a lot of musicians in today’s industry are treated with that kind of adoration. Not just adoration in sound and in look, but in purpose and perspective.
The biggest takeaway from the evening is that IDLES is on the precipice of something large and historic. They are at the forefront of an underground society of overworked and restless zealots who are looking for something to illuminate their uninspired minds. There is so much untapped potential in the people that don’t fit into the societal norms, and IDLES is learning how to control that power. They are friends with their fans. They are honest and true to themselves on stage. Whatever they do next will go down in the history books.
They have completed the American leg of their world tour, and are now moving on to Australia and New Zealand. Whenever a tour ends, a new album begins. Stay on the lookout for new music from our punk friends across the pond….no doubt it’ll be exciting.