Idlewild, Barrowlands, Glasgow <!-- none onestar twostar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

For a one-off seasonal special on Idlewild's home territory, this gig began under a pall. A month before, the band's website announced that, having come to the end of their contract with Parlophone/EMI, neither the band nor the label would seek to renew a deal that brought four critically respected albums.

So the Edinburgh quintet must be feeling a pang of unease as their continuing career remains in a state of limbo. Whatever the thoughts of the newly-married front man Roddy Woomble and the others, however, it was clear that this gig represented a huge boost of confidence.

Whatever Parlophone's doubts about their national profile, Idlewild are big box-office north of the border. This show had been sold out for some time, and the response of the audience at least equalled the passionate reactions that more famous Scots contemporaries like Franz Ferdinand or Belle & Sebastian have received on this famous stage.

It's a small irony, of course, that although Idlewild are not actually from Glasgow, unlike the bands mentioned above, their music is more entrenched in the traditions of Scots song than any of the key players in the city's resurgent scene. This was proven in the first part of the show, a 45-minute acoustic set in which Woomble was backed by three guitars, violin, sparse percussion and occasional accordion and mandolin.

With the kit fairy-lit and a red glow bathing the stage, such gentler songs as "American English", "Self Healer" and "Goodnight" revelled in the fireside-folk-storyteller side of the group, Woomble adding to the picture of a band somewhat out of time in the smart waistcoat and trousers of a Dickens character.

They play these songs with texture and resonance - rather than just unplugging their instruments and going about business as usual, like most acoustic sets - showing a keen versatility for which they deserve credit. Then they return to type for the 90-minute electric set that follows; a blast of punk-pop energy that generally reaffirms that you can be exciting, literate, emotional and refreshingly tuneful within the space of a three-minute pop song.

The set doesn't maintain the touching highs of its acoustic prologue, but such career-best songs as "Little Discourage", "These Wooden Ideas", "I Am the Message" and the stunning "You Held the World in Your Arms" grow better with age. May more follow when a clever label realises the enduring talent of this band.

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