Idlewild – The Institute Birmingham

Reunions tend to either be a cash-in on past glories, fun but lacking genuine validity, or they can be an opportunity to showcase an evolution within the band as well as providing a timely reminder of the bands’ past. Idlewild, who have reconvened after a self-imposed five-year hiatus, definitely fall into the latter category.

From the outset of their show at The Institute, the power-pop of ‘Nothing We Can Do About It’ indicates Idlewild have expanded their instrumental repertoire, adding multi-instrumentalists, Lucci Rossi, Hannah Fisher and Andrew Mitchell, to their original three founder members. It facilitates a chance to rework older tracks, a fact reflected on the band’s biggest hit, ‘You Held the World in Your Arms’, which has morphed into sounding like folk-tinged euphoria. Next, they seamlessly move into a punchier version of newbie ‘Collect Yourself’, offering guitarist Rod Jones an opportunity to exhibit his full arsenal.

After the crunching, spiky old favourite ‘Little Discourage’ we get treated to the vocal delicacies of singer, Roddy Woomble, who, even approaching forty, remains svelte and hits the harmonies with as much beauty as ever, especially on the elegiac new song ‘Every Little Means Trust’. ‘Live in a Hiding Place’ and ‘Love Steals Us from Loneliness’ only add to the feel good factor permeating the room.

Midway through the set and Idlewild shift the tempo up a gear, harking back to their punk roots, they play early single ‘Film for the Future’ with machine-like precision before segueing into a snarling, nasty ‘Captain’, leading to the evenings first sings of moshpit carnage. A self-declared rock medley to remind the audience that Idlewild haven’t forgotten their earlier incarnation as a post-hard-core/punk group, although representation of this period was a little sparse given the set’s length of 22 tracks.

‘Roseability’ and ‘American English’ are sung with soaring grandeur by band and crowd, before closing with ‘utopia’, a new song that underlines the rich depth of Idlewild’s current sound.

The band return for a four-track encore, hitting a cacophonous peak with the turbo-charged blast of ‘Modern Way of Letting Go’, inciting a full scale circle pit that took no prisoners. And, in keeping with the evening’s varied tone, they close the set with the plaintive melancholy of ‘In Remote Part/Scottish Fiction.

Idlewild’s career is a fascinating one as they have managed, in a way Oasis didn’t, to evolve their sound and adapt to personnel changes, commercial fluctuations and a changing musical climate. This return not only underlined the strong back catalogue they’ve assembled over two decades, but showcased a band who have discovered their most complete and diverse sound to date. This was a band revitalised by a break, not intent on recapturing their past.