Idlewild - RNCM Manchester - 23.1.05

As we enter the Royal Northern College of music we're greeted by the splendour of the Black Dyke Band, not underground riot grrl noiseniks but a brass band non the less, and serious classical types stroking their chins. A few years ago you may have found it hard to fathom, but its all for a reason as Idlewild are touring an acoustic show before normal service is resumed in April.

It's been over two years since the last Idlewild album "A Remote Place" so it's good to have these sensitive Scots back. Their forthcoming album "Warnings / Promises" is reportedly a grower with a more mature sounds. The cosy stage is a mock up of a living room with table, chairs, candles, rugs and lamps scattered with fairy lights. Augmented with a violin player there's 6 people on stage for this intimate show.

Roddy Woomble looks comfortable in casual attire, as he says later it's his camp builder look. The first couple of songs waste no time at all in winning over their every increasing fan base. "I See Shapes" and "You Held The World In Your Arms" take on a new level of folk infused fragility with Roddy's an utter joy with a mix of Michael Stipe and Morrissey being the most obvious. "Love Steals Us From Loneliness", the new single, may not be an obvious choice but it sure resonates with honest emotion.

The rarely performed "Safe And Sound" even has an accordion on it and is dedicated to Celebrity Big Brother winner Bez. Roddy tries talking to the audience, but you can clearly see he's much more at home when the band start to play. After selected highlights from the new album it's during the encore where "American English" reminds us all why we've missed them so dearly.

Idlewild may have played new song "Disconnected", but that's the last thing this sold out crowd feel as the show comes to an end. The set was a good mix of new and old songs with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. Who ever said Sundays were boring surely wasn't here tonight.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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Why Idlewild are one of the most important bands in the UK right now?

I never really used to like Idlewild. Around the release of the mini-album "Captain" in 1998 they were just another bunch of punk wannabe's that mini-Lamacq's could hold onto as the final nail in the coffin of Britpop - the band that eschewed the 60s British patronage of the time and looked to the likes of Sonic Youth and Nirvana.

No-one could have seriously predicted that in 2005 Idlewild would have been doing a series of acoustic shows across the UK. For f**ks sake, they couldn't have even have imagined that the band would still be in existence a few years later.

In many ways Idlewild and their label Parlaphone go against the grain of everything else happening in the music industry at the moment. Many other labels would have dropped the band after 12 months when they saw that singles failed to chart in the Top 10. Over the last 12 months we've seen UK bands such as The Zutons and The Bloc Party rise up the ranks to frontcovers and sell out tours within the space of one album. Internationallly the Killers have done the same thing.

But what happens when those second albums fail to sell and they start taking the route back down. Will the labels stand by them? Will they allow the band to develop a new sound or expect that saleable sound repackaged?

If more bands and labels would take Idlewild as a prime model of what can happen when a band is allowed to develop then we wouldn't be so reliant on the ever changing minds of a few past-it record execs to feed us short term scene-ster bands.

Alex McCann