“I’ve missed it so fucking much.” These words, let forth by IDLES’ Joe Talbot midway through the band’s third and final live set at Abbey Road Studios this weekend, say it all. Signalled by a sharp intake of breath here, and a wide-eyed glare there, the consensus from the band isn’t just clear: it’s nigh on touchable. Not that it necessarily needs underscored, but IDLES clearly aren’t a band meant to wind or lock down.
Marking the imminent release of their third studio album, ‘Ultra Mono’, the Lock-In Sessions - not least tonight’s fist-clenched, at times feverish final act - feels like a momentous meld of many things. Neither a live show, nor simply a stream from some prestigious postcode, it swiftly becomes an event with a capital e, and a feature-length celebration of perseverance despite it all. Maybe it’s the bruising weight of the worldly moment we find ourselves, or the reams of history forged between these hallowed walls at Abbey Road, but the pure-cut sense of occasion (think Nirvana at Reading ’92, transmitted from an empty room in St John’s Wood) feels off the charts from the start.
Perfectly at odds with its Sunday lunchtime slot, the more trouncing efforts here spell out what it’s all about: gratitude, resilience, and never, ever taking it sitting down. Dedicated to key workers and the NHS (“Long live the open-minded, down with the Tory scum,” says Joe) ‘Divine and Conquer’ is as face-searing as ever. An ironclad live peak - the upshot of slaying it myriad times in the recent past - ‘Samaritans’ makes for a masterclass in sheer, roaring kinesis. “The drumbeat is actually the chorus to Smells Like Teen Spirit, which was recorded here at Abbey Road,” Joe jokes. “Along with the Frozen 3 soundtrack.” Same as it ever was, the finespun taking of piss reigns supreme.
But while ‘Faith in the City’ and ‘Benzocaine’ from 2017’s ‘Brutalism’ prove especially incendiary, the real pay-off is teased until the very end. Having bossed Ramones’ classic ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ and the Strokes’ ‘Reptilia’ the night before, a teeth-rattling take on The Beatles’ heavy metal blueprint ‘Helter Skelter,’ giddy false-start, blitzing outro and all, makes for a thrilling curtain call. As it fades to black, one’s mind wanders back to Joe’s words after a note-perfect rendition of ‘I’m Scum’ early on. “I mean, that’ll do,” he says, tongue firmly in cheek. “There’s only a few people watching this anyway.” A veritable army, in fact, both old and new. They, too, have missed it so much.