“It goes and it goes and it goes…”
So chants the supercharged crowd that has packed out Cardiff’s Tramshed this evening, knitted together in anticipation as IDLES drag out their achingly slow, but measured refrain of Colossus. Without any inkling of a warning, frontman Joe Talbot leaps onto the stage and a hero’s welcome reverberates around the room in response. He immediately begins to command the ridiculously rapturous crowd, usurping them into a gargantuan-scale mosh pit, unblinking, swaying his arms to and fro in the style of a conductor as flailing bodies clash together and begin to form a wave pool of blood, sweat and cider.
Though IDLES’ punkoid panache brings a hellish rough and tumble to many a song tonight, the emotional solidarity between the fans here tonight is searingly palpable. You wouldn’t be able to see it from the balcony above, but in the midst of this commotion of epic proportions, screams of “all is love!”, trusting handshakes and love-heart signs are exchanged between strangers. These passing acts of kindness are only testaments to the lessons of compassion and empathy that permeated IDLES’ furiously positive sophomore record, 2018’s ever vital Joy As An Act Of Resistance.
It is enlivening – and life-affirming – to see a thousand-strong crowd shouting along to IDLES’ rallying cry for community, the pro-immigration chant Danny Nedelko, “He’s made of you, he’s made of me, UNITY!”, they scream in unison before erupting into chaos. Samaritans triggers a similar ear-splitting effect, “I’m a real boy, boy and I cry”, go the lyrics, “I love myself and I want to try”. The quintet’s denaturalisation of toxic masculinity demands to be transformed into a deafening racket in a live setting, and tonight’s crowd did just that, and then some.
Lee Kiernan and Mark Bowen’s searing guitar salvos light up Love Song, and Great calls for a communal retaliation against the many, (may I say that again – many) ills of Brexit. It is not until Divide + Conquer that Talbot’s conversational mode springs to life, and when it does, he uses his platform to dedicate the thundering track to the NHS and A.F Gang (pronounced aff-gang), IDLES’ 16,000-strong Facebook fanbase, a community where, he says, “[he] feels true support and love”. This sentiment receives the loudest cheer of the night, as many a member of A.F Gang would tell you that the quintet’s brand of blisteringly caustic, but utterly intelligent post-punk has articulated their inner turmoils. It doesn’t appear to be a tricky task to spot the devotees dotted around the venue, as gold badges adorned with A.F. – an abbreviation of ‘as fuck’, which was once painted over drummer John Beavis’ kit – are worn with a sense of earnest pride that parallels that of Blue Peter badge holders.
There is no time for an encore, though, as the band tears straight into the scalding charge of Rottweiler. To the delight of the nigh-on exhausted security guards, members of the band continue to throw themselves out into the crowd, and a frenzied rush to hold up Kiernan aloft results in plenty of beards hitting the floor. United they may stand, united they may fall, it doesn’t matter – every fan here tonight lives and breathes IDLES. They are the band to believe in.
Words: Sophie Williams