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Idlewild / Sorren McLean – O2 ABC, Glasgow – Saturday 7th March 2015

“Everything’s always changing/nothing stays the same”.

The first lines of last night’s encore (from ‘Too Long Awake’) seem to get to the very heart of what it means to be Idlewild. Some form of progress seems to be essential to this band – they’re simply not prepared to simply go through the motions and risk becoming a heritage act, known only for songs a decade old.

With new record ‘Everything Ever Written’ you feel that the band have rediscovered their raison d’etre. Not only does the record get a solid chunk of last night’s show, but the hiatus and new line-up seem to have revitalised both the band’s approach and enthusiasm for the older material.

Having said that it’s fair to say that over the last few years Idlewild have drifted away from what I liked most about them in the direction of folk tinged 70s rock. Certainly there was a time when a new album would have been fiercely competitive in demanding my listening time but ‘Everything Ever Written’ has struggled to compete for ear-time with a strong slate of early 2015 LPs.

I’d long given up on hearing the likes of ‘A Film For The Future’ live again and the opening tunes suggested that the live set might be about to head in the same direction as the records. ‘Nothing I Can Do About It’ was a low key opening with the violin fairly prominent. The following ‘You Held The World In Your Arms’ seemed a little intense than in the past, with the melody prominently carried by the violin.

But any suggestions that we might be in for a set of easy listening Idlewild were quickly dispensed with when violinist Hannah Fisher strapped on a guitar for a rousing ‘Collect Yourself’.

Thereafter the band ranged through virtually all corners of the back catalogue (with the slightly surprising exception of the completely ignored ‘Post Electric Blues’) with the musicians regularly switching instruments as the tunes demaned.

A fair number of old favourites, were recast, albeit not drastically with ‘Roseability’ sounding very metallic. However overall the result was a declaration of just how good this band’s back catalogue is.

And then there was a genuine ‘You’re shitting me’ moment when the band launched into, yep, you guessed it, ‘A Film for the Future’ which morphed into ‘Captain’, both of which proved that a violin can be deployed as a sonic weapon just as easily as on melodic folk.

To be honest, this segment sounded a little at odds with the rest of the set, not least because they were book ended by two gentler songs from the new LP, but there was no doubting the reception that they got from the long term fans.

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For all the focus on the newer material the biggest reactions still tended towards the older hits although the traditional ‘Spotlight on Rod’ slot, in this instance ‘(Use It) If You Can Use It’ also got a particularly warm response. But the biggest cheer of the night was saved for my least favourite of all the hits – ‘American English’.

I think much of my dislike for the song stems from the U2-esque recording. Given that the band have otherwise showed an unerring ability to stay on the right side of stadium bombast I can only assume that this one aberration was a calculated attempt at, ahem, mass communication.

To be fair, last night’s version was far more tolerable than that version if not quite as good as the totally acoustic reading of the song from the Barras a few years back.

It’s a minor gripe in a terrific hour and a half plus. Aside from the aforementioned punk interlude, highlights included an epic ‘Love Steals Us From Loneliness’, crowd favourite ‘Live In A Hiding Place’ and the two closing tunes a topical ‘El Capitan’ and the excellent ‘Utopia’ from the new record.

So last night conclusively proved not just that Idlewild have a phenomenal back catalogue but that they remain a great live act.

Support came from Sorren Maclean and his six piece band. With a warm voice and some very folky tunes, he sounded very much like the softer end of the headliners, perhaps just a little too much so.

Idlewild setlist

1 Nothing I Can Do About It  2 You Held The World In Your Arms  3 Collect Yourself  4 Little Discourage  5 Make Another World  6 Live In A Hiding Place  7 Love Steals Us From Loneliness  8 Come on Ghost  9 Quiet Crown  10 Roseability  11 So Many Things To Decide  12 A Film For The Future  13 Captain  14 Every Little Means Trust  15 American English  16 (Use It) If You Can Use It  17 El Capitan  18 Utopia

Encore

19 Too Long Awake  20 I Understand It  21 A Modern Way of Letting Go  22 In Remote Part/Scottish Fiction

Previous live Idlewild reviews on MPT:

Dundee, Fat Sam’s – 3rd November 2009

Dundee, Fat Sam’s – 30th December 2010

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