Live Review: Idlewild, Concerto For Constantine

30 04 2010

**As originally published on BBC’s Across The Line – Apr 2010**

Having announced an indefinite hiatus after the current tour thanks to, as Roddy himself admits, “There isn’t the demand for our music that there was in the past”, tonight’s Idlewild show is pretty much unmissable as you never know if or when they’ll be back. They’re a band that re-ignited the British rock scene once Brit-pop outstayed it’s welcome – this bunch of young Scottish upstarts, who were shambolically brilliant playing this passionate, spiky indie-punk. They were a breath of fresh air. Over the years, they’ve progressed and matured, their music is more radio-friendly, more polished and their song-writing has progressed in leaps and bounds. They’re a band who’ve matured, their sound has changed; it’s been a natural progression. It’s a shame to think that the demand for Idlewild isn’t there anymore as they’ve undoubtably been one of the most important British bands since their inception in 1995.

Opening tonight’s show is Concerto For Constantine who’re a bit of an Irish indie super group, featuring ex-JJ72 singer and guitarist Mark Greaney, ex-Turn (and Idlewild) bassist Gavin Fox and ex-Frames and Bell X1 drummer Paul Brennan. The last time they were in Belfast, they were supporting The Smashing Pumpkins. You can tell that would’ve been a huge honour for these guys as the Pumpkins influence is obvious, there’s a grunge back-bone to their sound but with a sort-of spacy, futuristic thing goin’ on. Muse are the most obvious point of reference really, but there’s hints of Nirvana and even more classically-inspired parts too. Greaney’s more like a rock-star now than he was in JJ72, the trademark high-pitched vocals have been traded in (mostly) for a deeper growl and he’s looking a bit rougher round the edges; more Kurt Cobain than his clean cut JJ72 days. CFC have the potential to be very good; they’re proficient musicians with plenty of experience in successful bands but at the minute they still sound like they’re trying to find their feet and decide what type of band they actually want to be.

Idlewild take to the stage shortly after and wow, they’re all looking very skinny. Are times really that hard in camp Idlewild? Someone needs to buy these guys a haggis bap. The sound in the Stiff Kitten tonight is very, very loud, the guitars are distorting and a bit of clarity has been lost in favour of sheer noise. Roddy’s vocals seem a little low in the mix, it might be because he’s not belting them out like he used to, although his actual singing has obviously improved over the years as he is now, note perfect.

Roseability is the highlight of the opening few songs of the set. We’re also treated to renditions of Love Steals Us From Loneliness, Readers and Writers, You Held The World In Your Arms and a couple of newer, slower songs including Make Another World. Roddy introduces the next song as “a quieter song” before playing The Night Will Bring You Back To Life. It shows how much their music has changed when they play some slower, quieter songs before introducing “a quieter song”.

The old fans are appeased and acknowledged with “a song for those who’ve been coming to see us for a very long time” when they burst into When I Argue I See Shapes, then treat us to a triple header of songs from 100 Broken Windows (Actually It’s Darkness, Listen To What You’ve Got, Little Discourage). It’s interesting to note that Roddy doesn’t bark through these songs the way he did 10 years ago, the strained vocals and shouts are nowhere to be seen tonight. It’s disappointing really, the passion and aggression of the songs witnessed in previous performances and even on the recordings, is replaced with singing ‘properly’. It’s good but it’s not the way they’re meant to be – where’s the emotion gone?

There’s a few more new tracks up next including Post-Electric and Blame It On Your Obvious Ways, delivered perfectly, but there’s something about Roddy tonight; he seems pleasant enough, his singing is flawless but he seems uninspired, disinterested even. The crowd are for the most part completely static, maybe that’s part of the problem, but when the last few albums have been aimed at a more mature audience, it was never likely to be any other way. During the instrumental sections of songs, Roddy always exits to the side of the stage – maybe he’s trying to give the other guys in the band the spotlight, but it comes across like he just doesn’t want to be up there tonight.

We’re treated to a few more songs, including the ‘encore’ (played without the pretense of leaving the stage and coming back again) including Everyone Says You’re So Fragile and In Remote Part/Scottish Fiction before the final song, A Modern Way of Letting Go. And that’s it all over. It’s been a good gig, there’s been a mix of old and new songs, played note perfectly and sang note perfectly. But Idlewild seemed like a band going through the motions tonight. Having announced their hiatus, they were like the guy at work who’s handed in his notice and is doing the minimum to get by. Maybe it’s because they’re getting older, it’s gotta be hard to be as passionate and aggressive in your performance when you’re in your mid-thirties. Maybe there’s just not as much to be angry about when you’re married with kids having sold millions of records. Hopefully the break will allow Idlewild to get the fire back, find their inspiration and come out fighting. Because tonight, they seem like a band content on being ‘good’ when they used to be great.

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