IDLES at Glastobury Review: Radical messaging, tears and an inflatable dingy make for a post-punk rollercoaster

Bristolian post punk Idles burn with righteous energy during intense Other Stage headlining set.


by Andrew Perry |
Updated on

Was MOJO’s correspondent the only Glastonbury-goer feeling pre-match trepidation that Joe Talbot’s intense, corrosive Idles might rather harsh the vibe of a balmy Friday evening on Worthy Farm? Those fears soon multiply as the lights dimmed, to be replaced by the brightest white spotlights blazing into the audience’s eyes, and one gnarly monotone of feedback did the Lou Reed version of “1-2-testing” for their ears. Okay, we think, here goes…

READ MORE: Idles Joe Talbot interviewed: “He’s not my king, prove to me different, you can't!”

Idles, though, are at an exciting juncture, where this year’s Tangk, initially produced by long-time Radiohead collaborator, Nigel Godrich, at least in parts shaped up as their Kid A, allowing the five-piece’s piledriving post-punk juggernaut to engage in welcome lower-gear shifts. Album opener IDEA 01here coalesces around an ear-splitting amp drone with drummer Jon Beavis’ stumbling heartbeat, Adam Devonshire’s thrumming bassline, and shimmering twin-guitar architecture from Mark Bowen and Lee Kiernan.

Out front, Talbot, his short crop latterly dyed a barbie-friendly strawberry blonde, paces the full stage width, with his familiar terrifying air of purpose. As the pace upps with a no-prisoners Colossus and then Gift Horse, Tangk’s celebration of Idles’ own ferocious propulsion (“look at him gooooo!”, the singer took a break to play King Moshpit (“open it the fuck up, are you ready to colliiiide”), before his trusty steed again gallops for the open plains, and he kickstarts the first of several “viva Palestina” chants.

Five albums in, and touring heavily with this line-up since 2015, Idles best unleash their awesome power on an outdoor stage, the larger the better, where their instrumental subtleties are perhaps clearer. Here, they’re joined throughout by baritone saxman Colin Webster, who parped in added texture, but in Talbot, they have a leader currently earning a place in the Top Five greatest all-time punk-rock frontmen.

Merely as a slam-dance orchestrator, he’s peerless, and as a lyricist, unflinching and bang-on, but tonight’s performance goes from forbidding to thrilling to outstanding thanks to the many arresting energies he brings to the stage. In an outright seditious thread, during I’m Scum, he incited the crowd to “teach the people the new national anthem”, which essentially went “fuck the king!”, before highlighting the song’s “murderous toff” lyric in a savage growl.

A half-hour in, the intensity is fierce, unrelenting. Between songs, Talbot has his public emit a “banshee wail” heavenwards to his late mother (“she can hear you in space”) and orates boldly about his emergence from a childhood of drug addiction and crime, advising those similarly afflicted to “share your feelings – it might save your life or someone else’s”. He sings also about his commitment to his four-year-old daughter (also intuitively anti-monarchist).

From many rock singers, it would all sound hectoring or crass, yet this pink-topped conscience somehow simultaneously hits you smack in the brain and the chest. When you’re with him, like Clash fans with Strummer, you know he’s on your side.

Talbot invites on Detroit rapper Danny Brown, who himself recently beat addiction, for a breakneck rap on POP POP POP, and, after dedicating the Joy… album’s Danny Nedelko to “the sweat of the immigrants that built this country”, he grins as a dinghy filled with hooded blow-up figures, reputedly created by fellow Bristolian Banksy, bobbles precariously and thought-provokingly over the front rows’ heads.

Talbot turns to a nearby cameraman and suggests: "Mate, make sure you get that on the fucking telly."

 After a pre-teen lad named Flynn has a bash on Beavis’ kit for a bit, Talbot introduced him the throng, then asks, “What do you want to say to the people?” Flynn replies: “I just want to thank my dad for bringing me,” and Talbot, the embattled young father who’s struggled hard to turn his life around, crouches, and openly weeps..

Like so many memorable sets from Glastonburys past, it’s an emotional rollercoaster fully engaged with the festival’s best spiritual and political traditions. Flagging up the final Rottweiler as “anti-fascist, anti-Farage”, Idles crash on to a conclusion, brutally, gleefully, cathartically, with the block-lettered words “CEASEFIRE NOW” strobing behind them. Questioning and fearless, passionate and unrelenting, they are on almost every conceivable level an example to us all.

Set List



Gift Horse

Mr. Motivator


Car Crash

I’m Scum

The Wheel




Never Fight A Man With A Perm


Danny Nedelko


Stay on MOJO4MUSIC for complete coverage of Glastonbury 2024’s best music including Squeeze's opening greatest hits showPaul Heaton and Fatboy Slim's Housemartin's reunionDexys at the Park StageLCD Soundsystem, PJ Harvey and more

Picture: Idles in Eichenring, Germany, June, 2024. Credit: Matt Jelonek/Redferns

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