Idlewild, ABC Glasgow, review: Wild ones have been away too long

Even in their relatively lesser moments there’s a resonant truth

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The Independent Culture

It can’t be a comeback, insist Scots indie-rockers Idlewild, if they were never away in the first place. Although they didn’t officially announce a split, there was something about the radio silence that followed their last album, 2009’s Post Electric Blues – and the comfort with  which key members have sunk into solo careers – that suggested the band might have been engaged in an option-weighing process ever since. When this year’s belated follow-up, Everything Ever Written, was announced at the back end of 2014, it was to relief from their fans, mingled with legitimate concern as to whether a continued sense of vigour might  be maintained.

On the evidence of this, the second of two weekend comeback dates proper in Glasgow (a low-key tour of the Scottish Highlands happened last year), the rapport with their audience is as strong as ever. Stronger, in fact, because amid this packed-to-capacity hall there is a grateful enthusiasm from both sides, of the type rarely encountered at a run-of-the-mill touring band gig – or at least, one where  the band doesn’t come with a wealth of proven ability to get it right.

There may be an element of Glasgow bounce to this huge approval rating, with the group playing a hometown (for some of their six members) show to plaid-shirted, Caledonian devotees. Yet the gruff voice that continues to shout “ah love you, Roddy” at lead singer Roddy Woomble (not plaid-shirted; more Gram Parsons in a rodeo-print blue denim shirt, with mid-length brown hair; shy but gracious) emphasises the strong continuing appeal Idlewild possess. In the past they earned 13 Top 40 singles and their biggest album was 2002’s The Remote Part, No 3 in the UK.

In part, this two-hour, 22-song barrage is a celebration of this track record, a greatest-hits set that shows off the tonal and emotive variety of the group without ever feeling forced. Constantly they deliver, from the careening, alternate universe stadium anthemics of “You Held the World in Your Arms”, “Little Discourage” and “American English” to the delicious, spiky punk of early singles “A Film for the Future” and “Captain”, and the later “A Modern Way of Letting Go”.

By its very nature, the new material doesn’t enjoy such a pure, time-filtered quality, but some of it does show every sense of enduring like the old, particularly the strident, Led Zeppelin thrust of “Collect Yourself” and the Dylanesque oom-pah “Come On Ghost”, its  finale a coruscating face-off between saxophone and guitar.

Perhaps the set could have been trimmed by 20 per cent to deliver an unimpeachable representation of why this group deserved huge fame, but even in their relatively lesser moments there’s a resonant truth. For example, during the ambling, pastoral “Every Little Means Trust” and its key lyric “in my dreams I am always young”, a resonant reflection of their best music’s ageless vitality.