I’ve rarely had more excitement for a gig than Idles at Sub 89 on 28 April, the undoubted headliner for the Are You Listening? (AYL) festival, which already had a stunning line up this year.

I had gone to the bar earlier, in my tribute stripy top. The Lovely Eggs were on before; their stage presence was a surprise, their quirky and witty songs were backed by a fabulously energetic set. A tough act to follow.

The Lovely Eggs

You could sense a difference by the time Idles came on. The venue was packed, and the crowd was suddenly much younger.

Even the sound check was a riot, with Mark Bowen screaming into the microphone.

I have rarely been so excited about a band coming to Reading. When I was very much younger I got a ticket to see the Beatles. I’d spent the six weeks before the Idles gig telling everyone who’d listen that I was as excited now as I had been back then.

Back then, I never heard a note the Beatles played. From the moment they came on stage the crowd erupted screaming and I never heard anything.

It was clear during Idles‘ sound check that I was going to hear this gig. People were stuffing tissues into their ears.

Idles ‘Chant’ (© Idles 2015 via Youtube).

And sure enough, they let rip a solid wall of sound as they kicked off with Heel/Heal, but I lost it when they started Chant, a tribute to the 1960s band, the Monks. I was tempted to get a tonsure for the night but didn’t have the guts, nor did I think anyone would get the joke. See the youtube video of Idles Chant and Monks Chant to get it. I just got on with the thrashing around with fans a third my age. Or less.

The Monks ‘Cuckoo’ (via Youtube).

When the opening chords of Mother sounded, the whole pit lost it too. Adam Devonshire’s bass really is a force, and too close to the speakers and, with no tissue paper in my ears, it was almost painful.

Idles at Sub89, 28 April 2018 (photograph © Mark Griffith-Watts).

To hear a bunch of sweaty kids leaping around screaming the best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich was very satisfying, even if I was being swept around the floor by jabbing elbows and whirling bodies.

Idles at Sub89, 28 April 2018 (photograph © Mark Griffith-Watts).

For an hour they kept up a relentless set of pure energy, interspersed with charming introductions, little jokes, and Lee Kiernan surfing the crowd, still playing bonkers guitar; the crowd helpfully made sure the guitar lead didn’t get tangled or unplugged.

Idles at Sub89, 28 April 2018 (photograph © Mark Griffith-Watts).

This remarkable set was made even more remarkable in that they didn’t play Rachel Khoo or Stendhal Syndrome. To come to town with a set strong enough to leave out two of the greatest songs on Brutalism, their debut album, shows that this is indeed a remarkable and confident band.

Idles at Sub89, 28 April 2018 (photograph © Mark Griffith-Watts).

Just after Well Done, Joe Talbot, seemingly genuinely impressed by the enthusiasm of the crowd, said what sounded like “it feels like we’ve become the Beatles in here” as the crowd were so “warm and compassionate”.

Wait a minute, did he really say that? Did he really compare the band to the last band that had me so excited before a gig in 1963? He really did. It’s on the video on the AF Gang facebook page.

Idles at Sub89, 28 April 2018 (photograph © Mark Griffith-Watts).

As the set drew to a close, Joe left the stage and the four remaining members played out with Rottweiler, reaching higher and higher levels of energy and frenzy, Jon Beavis sending the drum kit flying until he was hitting anything he had left and then boom, they were gone. All that was left was a buzzing in my ears. Out on the street it was Saturday night in Reading, but it was like snow had fallen. Everything was eerily quiet.

So, for energy, noise, fun and a great night out: eleven out of ten.

  1. Are You Listening Festival
  2. Idles’ website and Facebook page
  3. AF gang community page
  4. The Lovely Eggs
  5. Sub89