The evening got off to a surprising start when it turned out that the gig was taking place in Level 2 at Fat Sam’s rather than in the larger Fat Sam’s Live. It’s a real trip down memory lane for me because it must be the first time I’ve been in this part of the venue since the early 90s.
The venue switch is perhaps another indication that more and more these days Idlewild seem to be taken for granted. They’ve been around for more than a decade now and on the evidence of this show at least their audience has grown up with them. Perhaps also they tour so regularly (and intensively) in Scotland that people reckon that there will be another chance to see them soon. But with the transition from a major to a smaller label complete there’s an unmistakeable air that, at the moment, Idlewild just aren’t cool.
Why this should be the case is hard to fathom. They are a far superior band to many more successful outfits but it may just be the case that being good simply isn’t enough. And Monday’s set illustrated perfectly the amount of strong material they have because it was almost as notable for the stuff they didn’t play as what they did.
There is maybe a view forming within the band that the audience are more interested in past glories than the band’s newer material. Whilst new LP ‘Post-Electric Blues’ doesn’t feature such obvious crowd pleasers as their other LPs, it is nonetheless a strong collection and it’s disappointing therefore that the set features just 4 songs from the record.
So the public gets what the public wants? Maybe, but as a creative endeavour it is surely less satisfying for all concerned.
And yet whilst the set draws largely on the older material (with a definitely crowd pleasing 6 songs from ‘100 Broken Windows’), there’s still an unpredictability as to what will get played as they close with ‘Blame It On The Obvious Ways’ and ‘Too Long Awake’ (the only tracks from ‘Warnings/Promises’.) It’s hardly an obvious way to close the set and yet they’re about the highlights of the evening.
And, without any question whatsoever, Idlewild remain a cracking live band. The only real gripe about the show is that Rod’s guitars could certainly bear to be higher in the mix. At one point I thought that this was going to be the best show I’d seen them do but the guitar shortage definitely dropped it a notch below that.
Surprisingly it’s also a very short show – although it certainly didn’t feel that way. I remember looking down after 10 songs and being quite astonished that little more than half an hour had passed since they’d taken the stage. All in all they were on stage for little more than an hour but the only disappointment was that there wasn’t a second encore.
Despite this you wonder what it’s like being in Idlewild these days. They’re such a hard working band yet they haven’t made the significant breakthrough many once predicted. Whilst in recent LPs, they have introduced a folk element to their sound, there’s a definite feeling that you know what the LPs are going to sound like.
You know they’re going to be good but you also know that the mix of faster and slower songs is going to be the same and that the extent of experimentation is going to be limited.
Maybe when the promotion is done for this record, they need to take a break and come up with something different. Because, much as I like this band, and I really do, I just don’t get as excited by them as I used to.
1. City Hall 2. Younger Than America 3. Little Discourage 4. I Don’t Have The Map 5. These Wooden Ideas 6. Roseability 7. Idea Track 8. No Emotion 9. A Ghost In The Arcade 10. Actually, It’s Darkness 11. When I Argue I See Shapes 12. Post Electric 13. Annihilate Now! 14. You Held The World In Your Arms 15. Blame It On The Obvious Ways 16. Too Long Awake
17. Readers & Writers 18. A Modern Way Of Letting Go