Idlewild live @the Button Factory 4th August 2022

Idlewild were a band that could and should have been massive.

They emerged in the mid-nineties at a time when guitar-heavy, alternative rock music was enjoying considerable success, with a slew of bands of that ilk breaking into the mainstream charts. Debut album ‘Captain’ and follow up ‘Hope is Important’ marked them out as ones to watch but it was their stunning third album ‘100 Broken Windows’, released in 2000 that really announced them as contenders.

They had all the ingredients – it was all there, but somehow, major success eluded them.  Their fourth album, ‘The Remote Part’ was the one; the record that should have been their big breakthrough album but despite glowing reviews, it didn’t move them to the next level.

Tonight at the Button Factory, we are here for the 20th Anniversary of ‘The Remote Part’. It is close to a capacity crowd; this is the first time Idlewild have visited Dublin since 2003, when they played the Ambassador Theatre. I was fortunate enough to have seen them that night and have been eagerly looking forward to this one for ages.

They take the stage and launch straight into ‘You Held the World In Your Hands’, the first track on the album, and a near perfect opener in a live context. Immediately you know it is going to be a special night. The sound is loud, powerful, driven, with Roddy Woomble’s voice occasionally struggling to be heard over the furious maelstrom of guitars, bass, drums and keyboards, but that doesn’t really matter – the overall impact is immense.

They play the album in sequence; Woomble is a self-effacing, humble presence on stage – he introduces the songs, throwing in the occasional humorous comment, and seems to be enjoying the obvious warmth and affection the audience have for the band. Highlights include ‘American English’, a scorching ‘(I Am) What I Am Not’ and a towering version of ‘In Remote Part/Scottish Fiction’.

Playing an album in sequence live can sometimes feel a little constraining – what works on a recorded album, doesn’t always flow as well in a live setting.

That wasn’t a problem tonight but there is a noticeable gear shift when they finish playing the album, and dive into a selection of songs from the rest of their recorded output. ‘Roseability’, ‘Loves Steals Us from Loneliness’ and ‘El Capitan’ are thunderous -the band leave the stage before returning for the obligatory encore.

A double helping from ‘Hope is Important’ finishes off a special show; ‘When I Argue I see Shapes’ and ‘A Film for the Future’ sound raw, fresh and exciting and draw the loudest reaction from the audience on the night.

These anniversary show can be somewhat hit and miss; a nostalgia trip that often goes nowhere,  but somehow Idlewild managed to make these songs that are over 20 years old sound as exciting and invigorating as they were back when they were first released.

A brilliant show that made me realise how special live music can be and left me wanting more.

Paul Page

Photo by Cameron Brisbane