British punks IDLES came back to Toronto after nearly a year where they previously played at Lee's Palace; a 500-ish capacity venue to now playing a sold out gig with a 1.5k cap. Impressive jump in numbers within a year. The success of their 2018 sophomore album is showing.
IDLES' one and only opener A Place To Bury Strangers are an American noise-punk band who have been around for well over a decade. The three members arrived on stage in the dark. Fog from machines began to flow out onto the floor and projectors became the only lighting, silhouetting the band. Strobe lighting also became a major lighting component to add more to the brooding mood. They began with an atmospheric intro then punched into action with their noise-punk roots. Their drummer and part vocalist, Lia Simone Braswell was a beast of player who really laid down the entire mood of their songs by bringing the energy up or down seamlessly. At one point, their lead guitarist took a small strobe light and used it as a slider on his guitar and then swung it around. Vocalist and bassist ended a song by chucking his guitar to the ground; just once so he didn't demolish it. They were more instrumental than vocal which made them more of a listening experience. Once people in the audience got a feel for them, they began to show their appreciation after every song. The lead guitarist hopped into the crowd on the last song and exited with his guitar high in the air. Everyone thought their set was over because it was dark and they were playing distortions for a couple minutes, but it wasn't until the venue lights came on people realized that's when they actually ended.
Dramatically opening their set, IDLES performed "Colossus", which built up anticipation very well. The moshers in the crowd were restless and started their pit right away. Fans in the front yelled along like a chant at a sports game, but even more intense. Next were their more popular tracks, "Never Fight a Man With a Perm" and "Mother", where lead singer Joe Talbot allowed fans to sing notable lyrics from those songs in place of him singing. The underwear only lead guitarist who frequently hopped into the crowd to play on top of them, connected with a walker wielding fan who crowd surfed and let him mess around with his guitar.
For most songs, Joe introduced the topics of each song, which were usually politically charged or deeply personal. He introduced "I'm Scum" by saying, "The critics, bosses are cunts," and those people made him feel inadequate, but their shows made them feel special. Another song he introduced as "A celebration of the best thing to happen to Britain, immigrants." "Samaritans" he says is about "masculinity, but not toxic masculinity." Yet another one was, "This is a song about depression [...] share your feelings because it might save your life." For another song, Joe prefaced that he's still struggling through recovery of addiction and that "it's a disease not to be associated with crime."
He had a moment 2/3’s through their set where he said Toronto is one of the few places that feel like home to play in and there are only a handful of places that go as hard for their music. He also mentioned that this concert wasn't "normal size", meaning they usually don't play to this big of an audience, so he was happy and humbled by the whole thing.
During "I'm Scum" Joe commanded the crowd to get low on their knees, with the exception of the guy in the walker who was still supported in the air crowd surfing. Then, everyone burst up and jumped around to the catchy tune.
Once again the lead guitarist hopped into the crowd, this time without his guitar but with a microphone, and was singing one of their songs and then transitioned into “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion. Joe joined in in singing Celine's song and then explained afterward that, "I couldn't remember any METZ songs." METZ is a Canadian noise-punk band who is influential among other punk artists. "Without METZ, we wouldn't be here." Joe said.
During one of their last songs, the band had to stall a bit and extend a song because Joe lost his ear piece. They finished once he got it back.
They finished out their set with one song about loving yourself and then one about anti-fascism. They thanked the security for taking care of the audience, the crew, and their opener APTBS. They received a roaring applause but no encore. Everyone seemed satisfied with what they got and the moshers were probably ready to call it a night.
IDLES has a reason to rise this quickly to popularity in this day and age. They are deeply passionate about a number of world and personal issues and are obviously vocal about them. They are an excellent release of that frustration and passion, and that's why many come to them, in comfort and release. They have their cheeky and humourous moments with their IDGAF attitude, but they aren't completely chaotic and out of order in their music. There's still great listening moments instrumentally which keep them grounded. It was a successful night in Toronto for some British punks.