Rock band IDLES @ PNE Forum, Vancouver - May 2nd 2024 © Jamie Taylor

Live Review: IDLES @ PNE Forum, Vancouver – May 2nd 2024

Written by Krysten Maier

IDLES feels like an old friend–a friend that’s just a little cooler than you, a little edgier than you, but that you love to death. There is something that can’t help endearing them to you. They just get under your skin. You’ve seen them go through changes–you’ve grown together and apart. They are full of stories, of agendas, of traumas, and they’ve shared them all with you. You may not always be on the same wavelength, but they always make you think. More importantly, you respect the hell out of what they are doing in the world. And, of course, you always have a kickass time when you finally find the time to get together.

From their “always poor, never bored” era, IDLES have firmly entered their “gratitude runs through my veins” era, now firmly cemented as a monolith of the noise rock scene. From humble Bristol beginnings and what some might call a geriatric start to their career, the guys have blown up worldwide and garnered a fierce following. Frontman Joe Talbot candidly shares that the band provided him with the outlet and support that pulled him out of a deep psychosis from drugs that he saw as inevitably leading to one of two fates: death or prison. Now that they have secured a comfortable place at the table, it’s time to share the love and streetcorner wisdom, which the band is doling out in spades on their Love Is the Fing Tour.

Rock band IDLES performing in Vancouver, BC on May 2nd 2024 © Jamie Taylor

The band has exercised creative freedom in the face of criticism throughout their career but has held fast to their vision for what they want to convey. Their latest albums have circled outside of their raucous origins and have explored a softer side and diversified instrumentation. Their new release TANGK is no exception, yet strikes a beautiful balance between more peaceful expressions and the gruff and rowdy bangers we fell in love with early days. This latest tour embraced the best of their entire body of work, a sample pack of what the people want,

I caught IDLES on the first of their two-night engagement in Vancouver at the PNE Forum. The buzz was mighty as rock fans congregated in the massive space. Fans jumped at the chance to pick up one of their typical vast array of tee offerings. I used the selections as a personality test, speculating on personalities that matched each design. After seven years of making music and merch alike, the band now boasts a behemoth collection, so it was rare to find two-of-a-kind in the crowd. The love spread in the room as fans cut hearts with their hands raised high in anticipation of the band’s arrival.

Rock band IDLES performing in Vancouver, BC on May 2nd 2024 © Jamie Taylor

An eerie glow emanated from three impressive light rigs, suddenly blasting bright like the high beams of the mothership landing. Unearthly tones emanated as IDLES took the stage, easing into TANGK’s introductory number. Joe paced the front of the stage anxiously before settling into his place front and centre to sing the unsettling lyrics softly. Another intro number followed, this time “Colossus” from Joy. The cagey and ominous tone on stage persisted as they stripped the song back to lonely monotone beats and slowed it to a crawl, Joe rasping, “Goes and it goes and it goes” ad infinitum until the release of a crashing drop and jump uptempo.

The demanding frontman wasted no time splitting the room for an epic mosh battle to new banger “Gift Horse”, calling, “Are you ready to collide? Are you ready for love?” Guitarist Lee Kiernan wasted no time joining the fray, diving in for a crowd surf. As the refrain of, “Look at him goooo” repeated, the other guitarist Mark Bowen whipped out chords erratically, swirling in his flouncy hot pink frock, riding up over his boxers in his strenuous exertions. Flipping from guitar to guitar, Bowen equally bounced over to a synth station to crank the dials like a mad scientist and summon righteous noise. 

Rock band IDLES performing in Vancouver, BC on May 2nd 2024 © Jamie Taylor

The energy on stage was incredible, like watching men possessed, just jimmy-legging and jittering all over the stage. I was fascinated by their intensity, and I could watch Joe’s cartoonish motions all day. From spitting a loogie up into the air and catching it again, to kicking his knees high in a punker staple, to prancing and wiggling his butt with the mic cord draped over his shoulders like a mink, you simply can’t look away from the guy. 

His stage chat was equally engaging. “I’m not very good at facts. I like to spin a yarn. Some say tell a lie. But there are two truths for tonight: Protomartyr are the best band in the fucking world…” Joe decreed, shouting out Detroit rockers opening on this leg of the tour, “and we are 100% on the side of the Palestinians.” Joe reiterated this point throughout the show, eliciting massive cheers from the crowd, the vast majority of whom, I am certain, share this exceptionally valid viewpoint. 

Rock band IDLES performing in Vancouver, BC on May 2nd 2024 © Jamie Taylor

Joe kept the antics going during “I’m Scum”, bringing things down to a whisper and urging his bandmates to lie flat on the floor as they strummed. “Oh Canadaaa,” Joe goaded menacingly as he waited for the crowd to join them and get low. He then taught everyone what he declared Britain’s new national anthem: “Fuck the king, fuck the king.” Everyone gladly chanted this countermelody as Joe delivered the song’s next verse, before having everyone rise to go nuts to the final chorus. Ravenous concertgoers were crowd surfing nonstop and women were throwing a steady stream of bras up on stage–a move I don’t think I’ve ever seen in real life. Joe laughed it off imploring, “What are you trying to say? I know I’ve put on some weight…but not that fucking much!”

Amidst the absolute party, IDLES brought true heart and sincerity to their set. Joe shed light on some of the moving inspirations for some of their songs, from his special connection to his mother to a friend’s battle with mental health amidst the stigma of men’s emotional suppression. In a heartfelt moment, Joe encouraged everyone, “Find the courage to share your feelings, as it may save your life,” before playing “Samaritans”. 

Rock band IDLES performing in Vancouver, BC on May 2nd 2024 © Jamie Taylor

Joe also touched on the racism, xenophobia, and sectarian thinking that he observes daily in the UK, calling it a savage country, and noting the ongoing oppression of the immigrants that make our countries great. This frustration well and truly bubbled over in “Danny Nedelko”. I think this capacity to tackle important social issues–despite some criticizing this as pandering or sloganeering–is part of the special sauce that puts IDLES at the head of the pack, and truly embraces what punk is about.

This tour birthed a show that kept on giving, as IDLES didn’t even stop for an encore during a packed two-hour set. With each new song, I couldn’t believe there was always more. Keeping us on our toes, they bounced from the melodramatic “Beachland Ballroom” to groovy new single “Dancer” as the crowd got drawn into a whirlpool mosh and enjoyed a true release. Sending us off with a self-decreed anti-fascist anthem “Rottweiler”, the guys brought the raging energy up to the last. Joe wandered to the back of the stage to join drummer Jon Beavis at the kit in the final moments, producing his own pair of sticks and smashing at the cymbals. 

Having left it all out there on the stage, the show came to a dazzling conclusion. It was an absolute pleasure to check in with these old friends once again, and I eagerly await the next visit. I’ll have their stellar albums to tide me over in the meantime. 

Set List

Idea 01
Gift Horse
Mr Motivator
Car Crash
I’m Scum
1049 Gotha
The Wheel
When the Lights
Divide & Conquer
Beachland Ballroom
Never Fight a Man With a Perm
Danny Nedelko

Photos © Jamie Taylor

Owner + Editor In Chief + Concert Photographer

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