Live Review

IDLES, O2 Academy Brixton

IDLES might have been headlining, but tonight’s a 2-4-1 of artists more than ready to occupy the spot.

On paper, IDLES’ visceral, lyrically no-nonsense punk and Self Esteem’s forward-thinking, witty pop have little in common. When the Bristol quintet announced the support bill for their mammoth four-night run at the legendary Brixton Academy, doubtless a few eyebrows will have been raised at this second night pairing. However, in terms of cultural impact, you couldn’t really pick better bedfellows: not since IDLES first instigated a wave of conversation around mental health and compassion, creating the empathetic AF Gang fan group and turning its authors into figureheads of a new punk movement has one artist seemed to exemplify a shift and a moment in culture as much as Self Esteem is doing right now. For Rebecca Lucy Taylor, her fight is a different one to tonight’s headliners. But where later, songs rallying for unification and kindness will ring out from the mouthpiece of Joe Talbot, Self Esteem’s support set is a vital, exhilarating, transcendent set of world-weary yet ultimately hopeful pop from a seasoned performer who visibly knows that this is her moment. No second on Brixton’s iconic stage is wasted by Taylor; having played small venues for more than a decade in her old band and the first days of her solo career, the sense of relishing tonight is tangible. Dark red lights create a dramatic glow that heightens the punishing Kanye drums of ‘How Can I Help You?’ and ‘Prioritise Pleasure’’s climactic chorus; each bit of choreography is flexed and stretched like a West End performance rather than one at a scuzzy rock venue. At one point, Taylor stops and soaks up a pause between songs for 15, maybe 20 seconds as cheers from the crowd get louder and louder. With a sold-out Kentish Town Forum coming up, a Brixton headline is surely on the cards before long, but that still feels like only the beginning.

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