Somerset House has to be the loveliest venue in the world. The whitestone walls blushed by the setting sun and the sky sparkles with stars,while from the stage blasts good old-style, brick hard rock. Idlewildclearly agreed about the setting. Taking the stage, lead singer RoddyWoomble looked around and in an whisper declared: “Isn’t thisbeautiful?” He seemed, for a moment, awed by the place.
Support act Nine Black Alps had warmed up the chilly August nightnicely. A year and a half constantly on the road has been rewarded by atight sound that lifted them above the usual Brit boy grunge band. Thehard guitar riffs and pedal to the mettle distortion sounded fresh,despite the clear influences of a long dead rock star on songs such asNot Everyone and Shot Down. The band delivers its angst with good oldfashioned guitar rock, and there is nothing wrong with that. It makes arefreshing change from the current glut of melodic pretty boy sentimentplayed by the likes of Jonathan Rice.
Idlewild blasted onto the stage to deliver a tight, energetic setthat showcased their new album Warnings/Promises, though therewas a liberal sprinkling of old tracks to please the blokey crowd outfront. They kicked off with Too Long Awake, and the gloriously namedWoomble’s vocals soared above the searing guitar. This was followed byA Little Discourage from 100 Broken Windows, which remainsthe band’s best album to date. The biggest roar though came for LoveSteals Us From Loneliness, the first single from the latest album andthe REM influenced Roseability.
Though the emphasis of the gig was on rock with a capital ‘R’, therewere plenty of muted moments, such as American English. On El Capitan,the new single, Woomble’s vocals sounded positively Morrissey-like,against a Celt rock backdrop. But Woomble, while an engaging front man,does not exude the raw charismatic power needed for real rock and roll.The rest of the band, guitarists Rod Jones and Allan Stewart, bassGavin Fox and drummer Colin Newton, play well, and, hold their ownspace on the stage. Again, Idlewild’s months on the road have beenrewarded by a strong sense of community on stage, which helps power themusic to an audience growing chilly in the English summer.
This is bloke rock though, and while there was variation in the set,at times it was hard to differentiate between songs or get reallyexcited. Maybe that is the fault of the venue. Somerset House isbeautiful, but it dominates whatever is on stage in a way that candrain the energy of performance. For me the venue works for bands suchas Air, where the milky white music blends well with the milky whitestone, but for a rock band playing lowdown and dirty rock, it justdoes not fit right, especially when the audience is dominated bynodding blokes of a certain age clutching their beer and lookingaround self-consciously before deciding against dancing.