Writing and Photography by Bobby Talamine
October 8, 2021
Outside the iconic Riviera Theatre in Chicago's Uptown Neighborhood, before the doors open within the hour on a Friday night for the band IDLES- I encounter a long line of fans waiting to get in. I like photographing the Riviera's marquee, all lit up in bright red, and flashing. And the line of fans waiting to get in to see whatever band is playing is equally fascinating. The line wraps around the outside of the Riviera, heading north on Broadway and then west on Lawrence to Magnolia.
Lots of ground to cover to witness and observe the IDLES faithful.
Lo and behold I find the perfect candidate that speaks volumes of the IDLES aesthetic, and what it means to love a band and wear your self created logo and symbols and patches proudly- a Latino man wearing a dark jean jacket, with a back logo of IDLES that's huge, in black and white, with a slogan at the bottom that reads "BE THE I IN UNIFY"- all in capital letters.
I catch him at the right moment looking up at the Riviera marquee, in anticipation of the doors getting ready to open.
I just hope that since this guy is like 10 people deep in the line, and that he's here early for a reason, that being making a dash to the main floor once in the building, that his cool jacket doesn't get a beat down from what's certain to be a very physical night, both from the band, and also the packed main floor. My suspicions were confirmed on the physical, that's for sure.
Even in the midst of a never ending pandemic, the band and audience are dying to unleash the hounds, and get into some serious physical revery. Even weeks before the show, with cancelations and postponements announced what seemed left and right- Ministry, Dead can Dance, amongst others- and with the post punk / hardcore punk / post hardcore stylings of IDLES- the question kept coming up again and again-
will their visas be approved, and will they be ready to bring their intensity to a packed Riv with all that's going on with the pandemic?
Personally, I'm glad things ended up positively for them, and for their faithful fans, me included.
I needed this.
I needed this with Joe Talbot and IDLES on many levels.
The tour for IDLES started actually in the Twin Cities the night before, with the Riv being the second stop on their "Beauty from Ashes US Tour".
How quaint- the title of the tour, when you think about it.
This band, fronted by Joe Talbot- angry, menacing, and with a pertinent message time and time again (pick whichever song from the setlist)- they clearly know how to incite a crowd and bring the heat to a packed Riviera Theatre on a Friday night.
Opening with "Colossus"- a song that builds and bullies with tension from the first distorted strings, with the refrain ever evident and repetitive lyric that's front and center: "Goes and it goes and it goes"- over and over and over -until by the end of the song with a bludgeoning, and Joe menacingly shouting and singing the ending lyric- "I'm like Stone Cold Steve Austin, I put homophobes in coffins, I'm like Fred Astaire- I dance like I don't care".
And I'm right there with him- 100 percent.
Along with the brethren and faithful packed on the main floor. And it goes heavier from there throughout the ninety or so minute set, with guitarists Mike Bowen and Lee Kiernan taking turns body surfing and mixing it up on the main floor, guitar chords intact, and rather lengthy chords to still play, all the way at the back of the main floor by the front of house sound booth.
It's like the roadies are used to this by now, even with two years off since playing a lengthy tour. And with the heavy rhythm section of Adam Devonshire on bass, and and Jon Beavis on drums- this band IDLES is intact- four on the floor.
Every song out of the gate is blast furnace ready to go: from number two "Mr. Motivator", into "Grounds", followed by "Mother", and "Anxiety", to let you know they are here to play with conviction, and that they don't take this performance lightly.
By the time of song eight- "Divide and Conquer", the crowd is ready for anything, including instructions from Joe Talbot, to divide up the main floor, to split it up, which he kept repeating them to do fervently until he was satisfied, and telling them to wait patient for the clue top go full on bludgeoning mosh within the song (which is obvious) - "Divide. Divide. Divide! (with a couple more thrown in until satisfied)- AND CONQUER!"
And so they did.
From my vantage point off the main floor- a full on violent confrontation straight out of the Streets of New York (without all the weapons of course).
That smile of success from Joe Talbot- soaked t shirt and all- was priceless.
And so the chaos ensued, all the way up to "Never Fight a Man With a Perm", which for all intent and purposes, is a song meant for a beat down- the stage floor attack from Joe Talbot, along with the fans enticed for more and more controlled chaos.
For me - a highlight of every IDLES show- case closed.
And the fans- with the constant body surfing and reverie- with the Chicago faithful showing strength in numbers, and that IDLES music will always prevail because of their working man's ethic, the black boot / no fuss / t shirt wearing don't give a shit about looks and stage presence and props / we're here to dismantle any notion of rock n' roll hierarchy and throw it in your face overall vibe and pronouncement-
I can't think of any other touring band playing today that comes close to how they push all of the above without having to make waves about it.
Either you care or you don't care.
They know that the people in the know about IDLES care, mostly by word of mouth, followed by press- in that order.
And IDLES prevails, with a message and music that's lean and mean.
Openers Gustaf- from Brooklyn, fronted by Lydia Gammill, had a short but inviting set, with Lydia making waves with a sound that brings up early Patti Smith and a band that chops its way through songs like early Gang of Four. Have to say they held court convincingly for their 30 minute or so set.
Bobby Talamine - JBTV Music Television Chicago