IDLES @ Abbey Road, 29/8/2020 | Live Review

idles abbey road

IDLES bring joy to lockdown at Abbey Road


After a spring of cancelled gigs and then a summer of cancelled festivals, it’s fair to say that music fans are chomping at the bit to taste some live music again – for those of us who don’t want to watch Muse at Reading ‘06 or Biffy Clyro at Glasto ‘11 on BBC iPlayer, IDLES have come to save the day. 

The Bristol five-piece have taken up residence at Abbey Road, performing a series of three live shows streamed to fans online – all with different setlists featuring tracks from throughout their career. 

Just as it kicked off the band’s debut album Brutalism, ‘Heel/Heal’ gets the show on the road here. It’s as emphatic as ever, and it’s difficult to believe that since we last saw the quintet, we’ve had a global pandemic, a nationwide lockdown, and a whole lot more besides. 

It’s perfectly imperfect. Now and again, they’ll restart a song or a verse after it not living up to the standards they set themselves, but it’s difficult to imagine any of the fans who paid to watch these shows being bothered in the slightest. If they wanted a polished, squeaky-clean set there are myriad bands to watch instead. These guys are not afraid to wear their vulnerability on their sleeves, and it makes it all the more engaging. 

Of course, with new album Ultra Mono coming out next month, it’s the perfect time to share some new material too.`Kill Them With Kindness’ pops up on the first set, and the Ultra Mono singles also make appearances throughout the shows.

Alongside new tracks and old favourites are covers too. Not knowing what to expect – the pre-released setlists simply read ‘Cover’ – it’s a pleasant surprise to hear Ramones’ ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’, IDLES-style. “There’s a much better version of that song by the Ramones” quips Talbot, although we’d definitely have a case to argue otherwise. 

Renditions of The Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’ and The Strokes ‘Reptilia’ follow, and it’s good to see IDLES’ take on these classic tracks, as well as get an insight into their musical influences. However, it’s difficult to decide on the high point of the shows. ‘Danny Nedelko’ is as iconic as ever, and ‘Samaritans’ is just as poignant in light of the mental health difficulties experienced by so many during lockdown.

Perhaps the highlight is the excitement garnered by fans online, social media full of excitement. These gigs may not be in physical form, but they’ve definitely captured the imagination of fans up and down the country. Next year’s tour has a lot to live up to, but if anyone is used to continually smashing expectations, it’s this Bristol five-piece.

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