Idles and Bambara Bring Punk Anger and Self-Care to Chicago

Courtesy of Paul QuinnIDLES performed an energetic concert at Lincoln Hall Sept. 14.

British punk band IDLES is ready to break out on its first American tour, bringing American post-punk band Bambara along for the ride. The tour kicked off at Lincoln Hall Sept. 14, where both bands had a similar driving style to their music and plenty of stage theatrics. 

IDLES has struggled with hardships since it was founded in 2011. While recording the debut album, “Brutalism,” released last year, lead singer Joe Talbot’s mother passed away, and in the process of making “Joy as an Act of Resistance.,” Talbot’s daughter died in childbirth. As a tribute to Talbot’s late mother, her face is on the stark album cover of “Brutalism.” 

Despite its troubles, the band managed to make some of the most lauded punk music of the decade, garnering praise from outlets including The Guardian and the Chicago Tribune. 

“Joy as an Act of Resistance.” was released Aug. 31 and bests the already-canonized “Brutalism.” The album is angrier, more varied and lighter in all the right places. 

Opener Bambara’s latest record, “Shadow on Everything” was released earlier this year, without much hype online. 

IDLES and Bambara played to a visibly excited crowd — most had been waiting to see IDLES live for some time, and one dedicated fan flew in from Austin, Texas just to see their first American show. Bambara wasted little time, launching right into its particular brand of country-tinged punk. 

It wasn’t long before vocalist Reid Bateh was throwing himself around the stage; coffee and beer spilled all over, making a mess over the stage.

Bateh’s vocals were at times indecipherable due to his on-stage theatrics, especially when he grabbed audience members and hugged them. Over the span of Bambara’s hour long set, Bateh’s shirt came off button by button until he was nearly topless. In the background of Bateh’s performance explosive drumming and a strong bass-line kept every song chugging forward. 

Around 11 p.m. — some concert-goers arrived as early as 6 p.m. — Talbot walked on stage to raucous applause and a wild crowd. IDLES started with one of its slowest songs, the towering “Colossus,” setting the tone for the night — lean post punk and boisterous choruses sung by the entire audience. 

The band’s set began with drummer Jon Beavis and bassist Adam Devonshire performing, while Talbot paced back and forth, fists clenched. Talbot intoned some bleak non-sequiturs, including “I’ve drained my body full of pins” and “My father’s shadow weighs a ton.”

The guitarists joined in as the crowd shouted the chorus of “It goes and it goes and it goes.” Just as the song reached its peak, the music suddenly stopped. Talbot raised his hand in the air for about a minute, and as soon as he dropped it, the band transformed the song into a raucous singalong. The audience instantly opened up into a mosh pit. 

The band went through almost every song on its newest album in almost the same order as the original tracklist. IDLES spoke on several politically charged topics, from Brexit, toxic masculinity and, as Talbot described it, “teen hedge fund bikers doing cocaine at a funeral.” 

While playing one of the few songs from albums other than “Joy as an Act of Resistance.,” including “Exeter” from “Brutalism,” two audience members were chosen to play the guitar parts. Upon realizing one of the chosen audience members attended the show to celebrate his birthday, Talbot commanded the entire audience to serenade him and keep him up in the mosh pit for the duration of the next song, “Danny Nedelko.” 

IDLES focuses on positivity, a feature which shined through in their show. Guitarist Mark Bowen waltzed around stage shirtless with a rainbow guitar strap the whole show. To further promote positivity, the setlist included “I’m Scum,” and “Television,” a paean to self-love. 

At the end of their set they covered soul standard “Cry to Me,” which is also featured on “Joy.” Talbot’s vocals were the only recognizably soul element, as the band turned the instrumental into churning hardcore. The show climaxed with the fiery “Rottweiler.” Lyrics were few and far between, and Talbot left the stage as soon as he finished. But the other band members stayed on, competing riffs and feedback clashing together to create several minutes of glorious noise to finish out the show.

IDLES recognizes people might not be the best at everything and believe it’s important to not succumb to a spiral of self-hatred and depression. The band is well aware of its limits and its strengths but isn’t afraid to expand. If IDLES doesn’t make it’s audiences ears bleed, they’ll make their hearts melt. 

IDLES and Bambara will be touring the U.S. through Oct. 12, then returning to the U.K. From there IDLES will embark on a European tour with different openers. “Joy as an Act of Resistance” and “Shadow on Everything” are available now on all streaming platforms and select record stores.

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