Idlewild / The Star Spangles - Manchester Academy 1 - 15.12.02

They're a group of scruffy urchins from New York, suited and booted with a menacing image. The band has already had the seal of approval from that unmentionable music weekly and are making waves in this country. But enough about the Stokes. I'm here to see the Star Spangles, yet another so called cool retro rock'n'roll sensation with their Ramones styled music and obvious Velvet Underground influences. To their credit the Spangles have great energy and the ferociousness of the Sex Pistols, the singer looks like hybrid of Nick Cave and Sid Vicious and with him as the sole focus of the group while the others hide in the shadows for 99% of tonight's performance. The bands debut single "Which Of The Two Of Us Is Gonna Burn This House Down" has got to be one of the best singles of the year, but ultimately it's all a little over familiar, lacking in originality adding to a feeling of sound we've head a little too much of this year.

As Ronan Keating once sang "Life Is A Rollercoaster" and for Idlewild this year it couldn't be a truer statement. The Scottish rockers have certainly had their ups and downs. Original bass player Bob Fairfoull's dramatically left to be replaced by Gavin Fox who was previously in rock trio Turn, but until the end of the year it's still temporary fill in Alex Grant on bass duties. And live guitarist Allan Stewart is now a fully fledged member which now makes Idlewild a five piece. It wasn't all upset though in 2002 as "The Remote Part" was a commercial and critical smash and the Academy is jam packed with the atmosphere reaching fever pitch when the band hit the stage.

Opening song "A Little Discourage" is belted out with aplomb and young Roddy Woomble is in fine voice. There's no doubting the talent that Idlewild possess and their ability to make memorable nugget melodies, but as a live spectacle Idlewild are surprisingly worthy but dull. There's hardly any interaction between the band and audience (with the exception of a few untranslatable mutterings from Woomble), but it's the songs we've come to hear and you begin to realize how many great songs Idlewild have in their extensive back catalogue. Their recent singles "You Held The World In Your Arms" and "American English" show a new found maturity in an REM meets the Smiths kind of way. Older tracks like "Roseability" and "Shapes" also impress and for the encore Idlewild cover fellow Scots Teenage Fanclub.

Where Idlewild go from here is anybody's guess, but if they continue as well as this they could be playing arenas a lot sooner than you think.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

Post your Idlewild reviews / comments on the Message Board