I used to go to dozens of live music gigs a year — scores of them, in fact, if you go back far enough. In the last few years, I’ve seen very few. This is partly because [busy], partly because getting home again after a gig is a nightmare, even when said gig is in Sheffield itself, and partly, if I’m honest, because music no longer holds sway over my life as it once did; other obsessions have stolen its throne.
But I’m having a brief flurry of audio activity: Kate Tempest a week or so ago, Mark Lanegan in early December, and Idlewild last night.
Strange to be reminded by Roddy Woomble himself that they were touring the 100 Broken Windows album twenty years ago almost to the date. That was when I discovered them via (I think) the Evening Sessions show on Radio 1, which was the only affordable entertainment available to someone sleeping on sofa cushions in a friend’s tiny Brighton living room, trying unsuccessfully (despite working two jobs, and paying an almost gestural rent to said friend) to pin down sufficient income to get a toe-hold in that city. Brighton was already hideously expensive in 1999, and precarity was already a thing — though it mostly caught the already-poor, plus a few fucked-up refusenik drop-outs with substance abuse problems, into which latter category I fit very firmly at the time.
(I returned to Velcro City with my metaphorical tail between my legs in the early months of the new millennium, defeated by myself.)
So all the more strange to see them twenty years later, having just returned home to Sheffield from a week in Brighton. I was meant to be in Europe most of last week, as mentioned, but a combination of train cancellations and the onset of a vicious head-cold put paid to that; instead I stayed in bed for three days, finally recuperating the immune system overdraft I managed to run up since late June. Turns out momentum can only take you so far for so long… and you end up crashing eventually. That’s a lesson I probably should have internalised back in 1999… better late than never, eh?
Anyway, point being, it was a great show — a solid tour of the back catalogue, with fewer deep cuts than fan favourites, and a new line-up that sees a swing back from the more folky sounds on the late Noughties and early Teens to a thicker, rockier texture. It brought back many memories, bright and dark alike.
I’ll leave you with a personal favourite that didn’t make last night’s set list. The wordplay and narration was always a huge part of Idlewild’s appeal for me, and this song kinda sums that up.