Live Music + Gig Reviews

Idlewild @ Somerset House, London

5 August 2005



Somerset House has to be the loveliest venue in the world. The white stone walls blushed by the setting sun and the sky sparkles with stars, while from the stage blasts good old-style, brick hard rock. Idlewild clearly agreed about the setting. Taking the stage, lead singer Roddy Woomble looked around and in a whisper declared: “Isn’t this beautiful?” He seemed, for a moment, awed by the place.

Support act Nine Black Alps had warmed up the chilly August night nicely. A year and a half constantly on the road has been rewarded by a tight sound that lifted them above the usual Brit boy grunge band. The hard guitar riffs and pedal to the mettle distortion sounded fresh, despite the clear influences of a long dead rock star on songs such as Not Everyone and Shot Down. The band delivers its angst with good old fashioned guitar rock, and there is nothing wrong with that. It makes a refreshing change from the current glut of melodic pretty boy sentiment played by the likes of Johnathan Rice.

Idlewild blasted onto the stage to deliver a tight, energetic set that showcased their new album Warnings/Promises, though there was a liberal sprinkling of old tracks to please the blokey crowd out front. They kicked off with Too Long Awake, and the gloriously named Woomble’s vocals soared above the searing guitar. This was followed by A Little Discourage from 100 Broken Windows, which remains the band’s best album to date. The biggest roar though came for Love Steals Us From Loneliness, the first single from the latest album and the R.E.M. influenced Roseability.

Though the emphasis of the gig was on rock with a capital ‘R’, there were 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, bassist Gavin Fox and drummer Colin Newton, play well, and, hold their own space on the stage. Again, Idlewild’s months on the road have been rewarded by a strong sense of community on stage, which helps power the music 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 really excited. Maybe that is the fault of the venue. Somerset House is beautiful, but it dominates whatever is on stage in a way that can drain the energy of performance. For me the venue works for bands such as Air, where the milky white music blends well with the milky white stone, but for a rock band playing lowdown and dirty rock, it just does not fit right, especially when the audience is dominated by nodding blokes of a certain age clutching their beer and looking around self-consciously before deciding against dancing.

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More on Idlewild
Idlewild @ Roundhouse, London
Idlewild – Everything Ever Written
This Music Made Me: Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble
Idlewild – Post-Electric Blues
Idlewild – Make Another World