Hearing people say “excuse me,” “everyone good?” and “you’re all so nice!” in a rowdy mosh pit is not a common occurrence. In fact, it might be exclusive to IDLES’ kindhearted AF Ganger following, who truly look out for each other and certainly did so in NYC (those are real quotes from fans recorded from the craziest parts of the pit). Crowdsurfers (band members included) soared safely over the sea of hands, and IDLES even kept a collection of missing shoes on the stage – “Alright, we need two more right shoes! We’ve got two left ones,” Joe Talbot announced with a contagious laugh at the end of the night. IDLES have captured global attention with their uplifting hits and knack for creating an atmosphere of love, acceptance, and unity, as they did once again on Thursday night. The impactful Bristol band closed out their short North American tour with a sold-out (potentially over-sold-out) show that turned NYC’s Terminal 5 into a swimming pool of considerate thrashers.
Not only was their sixteen-song set a rush of ferociously-delivered favorites, but Talbot made space between each for meaningful remarks that made the show feel all the more important. “I haven’t always been as lucky as I am right now. All of these wonderful people coming and building a community that’s much bigger than us. I was once in a very bad place and I didn’t know where to turn, so I looked to hard drugs, alcohol, and very shitty people. As you go through life, there’s a lot of people that will make you feel ugly and small. This is a song celebrating all of those things that those cunts told me throughout my life,” he explained before the exuberant “I’m Scum.” It was during that modern masterpiece that Talbot somehow convinced everyone to open up a chasm down the center of the pit. Once he had miraculously parted the sea, he then instructed everyone to meet in the middle, on his cue, and embrace like longtime friends – and everyone really did it. The surprisingly-gentle mass hug collision filled the room with love, and then the whirlpool started up again in the wake of IDLES’ energizing sound.
Jon Beavis was all smiles as he constructed his resounding rhythms behind the set, giving their impact moments that extra oomph that forces your muscles into motion. It’s not at all shocking that guitarist Mark “Bobo” Bowen was dancing confidently in only his boxer briefs, but it was funny to spot skin-toned socks on his feet; almost as if he wants to camouflage any excess clothing he concedes to wearing. Even more visually arresting was his clear acrylic guitar – one that was not present in previous IDLES gigs – which Bobo finessed with deft precision as he shredded. Adding depth with his hardened bass work, Adam Devonshire was visibly having a blast, well supported by the crowd on key backup vocal moments – like his “Yeah, yeah, yeah!”s in their savage “Colossus” and the “Hey…Hey!”s in “I’m Scum.” Lee Kiernan brought the fire on rhythm guitar, surfing so far into the back of the room at one point that he must have touched at least a third of the palms in the air. Joe Talbot – who is currently rocking a handsome shade of pink hair dye – delivered vocals that were both strong and strikingly beautiful.
Talbot took time to thank the security staff, “for making me feel safe here tonight,” adding, “This song was written when a friend of mine looked to me in comfort and safety to talk to me about his depression. I don’t know how much it helped, but in listening, I learned a lot, and it changed my life forever. This song is for everyone who feels alone, and it’s called ‘1049 Gotho.’” For the record, there is no better way to enjoy sharp lines like “We won’t last five fucking minutes with a body like mine and a mind like mine” than screaming them in unison with thousands of lovely humans. “This next song, I wrote when I was watching my mother die,” Talbot said bravely at the next break, the room hushing to listen respectfully. “I wrote it because I was starting to explore the idea that my mom wasn’t just a mother; she was a human being who sacrificed a lot to keep me alive and loved. That was my first real stint into actual feminism. I now get to watch my wife also sacrifice so much to become a mother, and also, a woman – in a society that doesn’t allow you to just be a person anymore.” One of the biggest cheers of the evening ensued. “All our songs are feminist songs. This one is dedicated to not just mothers, but people who just want to be themselves. That, is partly, feminism. And this song is called ‘Mother!’”
“I finally got a sick hat thrown onstage,” Talbot said appreciatively after a “Faith in the City” that nearly tore the roof off the stuffy venue. “Thank you very much. I’m genuinely gonna keep this; I love it. What a fucking feeling to be so far from home, but feel so at home. I say it a lot, because it’s fucking true: you travel the world, and it turns out, there are lots of communities of people like you everywhere. I call your kind ‘not cunts.’ Thank you very much for making us feel so fucking welcome tonight.” He then dedicated “Love Song” to Preoccupations, who had opened the show (and would later join them on stage for the last song, sharing instruments and ripping apart Beavis’ set). That watermelon-flavored jam went in wild directions, thanks to some unusually bold “LALALALAlalalala”s from Talbot, as well as Bobo’s unexpected interjections of “You’re The One That I Want” from Grease and “Someone Like You” by Adele (Bobo is a hero). After a delightfully vicious “Date Night” that shook up the pit, Talbot shared, “This song was written for my first daughter, Agatha, and it’s about loving yourself. It’s about ignoring the hideous fucking corporations that make you feel ugly in order to buy things to not feel ugly. It’s also about ignoring the government and the patriarchy that also make you feel small, stupid, and ugly. Fuck ‘em all. Build communities like this, look after each other, show each other what love is, and you can climb over that fucking wall and party. This song is called ‘Television.’”
In a moment that officially made the show a historic one, Talbot shared, “This is our biggest ever headlining show ever, in the world. That is not a feat that we have achieved; that is something that you have achieved. You have come here and you have celebrated something that we wrote not knowing what would happen. The whole point of this is that we are trying to reflect things that you are feeling, and I feel, and we translate it in a way that we can congregate and share something much bigger than us. ‘Cause any cunt that comes up here and acts like they’re bigger than you are just a cunt. We are nothing without you. Thank you very much. I say that with absolutely no fucking small measure of love. This is a fucking thing I will never forget for the rest of my life. Thank you very much. This song is for you, and it’s about sharing your feelings for a better future.” As many had guessed, the song was “Samaritans,” and Beavis’ beat crisply emphasized its words, which bite back at gender norms and toxic masculinity. Those were just some of the tough topics IDLES tackled. “My name is Joe Talbot, I’m an alcoholic drug addict, and I am in the safest hands I’ve ever been in in my life. This song is about my drug addiction, and it’s called ‘Benzocaine.’ Thank you very much for looking after us tonight!”
Speaking in a way that made him seem especially connected to this particular audience, Talbot was as refreshingly open about the present-day political garbage we collectively face as he was about his own shortcomings. “Ideologically, politically, and ethically, we are in such shit right now all over. Our country is completely confused as to what it means to be British, and your country – wow,” he said in a properly horrified tone. “So, we feel your pain and I think we’re all a bit scared for our future. But it’s very beautiful to be in a roomful of people that’s so welcoming. And what a beautiful experience it is to come so far and be welcomed by people who have no fucking clue who or what you are. This song is a celebration of something that this city was: it was a port for people. You welcomed in everyone to build something stunning. This is a celebration of the bravery and hard work of the immigrants that made your country what it is. Thank you.” Of course, IDLES then dove into an exquisite “Danny Nedelko” that was almost drowned out by everyone’s ardent singing and spelling.
Talbot’s last words of the night before final rager “Rottweiler” included guidance on how to “Fuck off the fascists!” Talbot urged, “The only way to fuck ‘em off is to congregate, turn to each other, create conversation, listen, and learn, and build something way more strong and beautiful than those cunts could ever build. Thank you so much, New York – this has been magic. Thank you all,” he said warmly. After it all unraveled and IDLES’ gripping show had come to an end, the huge crowd departing T5 passed by a Sabrett hot dog stand that was shrewdly blasting songs from Joy as an Act of Resistance in the typically-quiet Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. Who knew that late-night NYC hot dog purveyors had such loud speakers, or such good taste in era-defining albums?
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley