Chants of “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” might be a familiar sound in the UK, but here in New York? Hardly. Yet that’s the refrain that IDLES walk off stage to after decimating Rough Trade NYC. It’s the final night of their North American tour. If there was any doubt in the hours leading up to the show, tonight has fully confirmed that the US has taken to the Bristol punks just as those of us back home.
Before they get the chance to prove that, locals Bambara warm up the sell-out crowd with some dark and brooding punk. Frontman Reid Bateh stalks the stage, restless and glowering, throwing himself dramatically to the floor during opener ‘Her Sister Touya’. While he puts on a menacing display, his bandmates deliver tight, Iceage-esque gloominess, bass cutting through glinting melodies. It’s a tense, taut set that comes fittingly to an end with Reid stumbling off stage and starting a mini pit with just seconds before ‘Monument’ finishes. It’s no wonder IDLES later say they’re “humbled” to follow the New Yorkers.
If the audience feels deprived of the opportunity to really let loose in that brief moment, they more than make up for it once IDLES are on. There’s a circle pit almost the width of the room from the first note of ‘Heel / Heal’, a constant raft of crowdsurfers and stagedivers, and general carnage all round. “This is fucking ridiculous,” pants frontman Joe Talbot after ‘Mother’. “It’s a very strange feeling, this, but a beautiful one.”
There is something touching about the response they get tonight. During the bleak ‘1049 Gotho’, which Joe introduces as being “about depression”, he might as well not be singing, so loud are the cries of the chorus from the crowd. Later, when his mic cuts out during ‘Well Done’, the melee in front of him takes over his role. “It’s a good thing they know the words,” he quips to his bandmates afterwards.
There’s some time to air new material, too. In a taste of what will presumably make up their second album, the five-piece preview a song about “toxic masculinity” that commands the room to “man up, sit down / Chin up, pipe down” before a chorus that howls: “This is why you never see your father cry.” It’s as angry and uncompromising as you’d expect.
Eventually the night and IDLES’ time Stateside has to come to an end, but not before one last breathless, sweaty rendition of the furious ‘Rottweiler’. Before half the band end up sailing across fans’ heads, united in sweat, Joe takes a moment to tell us what the gig means to them. “This has been the best experience of my life.”
Photos: Coen Rees