It's nine years to the date since Idlewild played The Remote Part in full, midway through a sold out run of album shows at Glasgow's legendary King Tut's.
Now two sold out nights in succession at the O2 ABC to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the album’s release is indisputable proof of its popularity and continued relevance to fans. Whether The Remote Part is your favourite Idlewild record, or the album that turned you onto the band, it continues to hold a special place in the hearts of fans. For many it's considered Idlewild’s coming of age album; perfecting their sound and songwriting, and bettering their contemporaries with a blend of vividly poetic lyrics, enviable riffs, tempered piano and anthemic choruses. The audience demographic tonight suggests it was many people's coming of age soundtrack as well. There's a weight of anticipation in the air.
A bonus for those who arrive early is a short set from Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison and performance poet Michael Pedersen. Each wordy and melodic in their own ways, the cherubic Pedersen delights with his “lippy Scots” tales of romantic disappointment and smut, while Hutchison delivers a brief but no less rousing set of acoustic songs from the Frabbit back catalogue.
When Idlewild take to the stage they are met with an excitable reception, almost congratulatory, before what feels like an expectant pause. The question of whether they will start with the album is answered with the opening guitar of Little Discourage ringing out as the band spring into action. Four more songs from 100 Broken Windows follow before Roddy Woomble breaks to introduce the main event. From this point on the crowd starts to loosen up, with permission from the front man. “You're allowed to dance and move around”, he encourages before A Modern Way of Letting Go. A section of the audience complies and before too long there are crowdsurfers being lifted over the barrier.
“You know what comes next; the element of surprise is lost” Woomble concedes as the band ascends with a sparkling and emphatic performance of one of their biggest ‘hits’, American English, a song usually reserved for much later in the set.It's just that way with The Remote Part, it plays almost like a greatest hits with so many songs still featuring in recent set lists. The crowd sing along and mean every word, belting it out like it's Flower of Scotland. Yet it's the lesser played songs, especially the back end of the record, that really shine and the crowd engagement on Out Of Routine and Stay The Same, with hands in the air and voices raised, reinforces the depth and strength of this album. It is thoroughly adored.
The band are having a great time of it too; Rod Jones is his typical hyperactive self, running a personal parkour route between amps, monitors and drum riser. Woomble and drummer Colin Newton are smiling almost constantly, soaking up the atmosphere. Relative new recruits Hannah Fisher (fiddle + guitar), Luciano Rossi (bass + keys) and Andrew Mitchell (bass + keys + guitar) who all joined the band for their most recent album elevate these old songs with their measured playing and exquisite harmonies. At times you catch them watching the crowd and each other with a joyful wonder. They are part of something truly special.
By the time natural closer In Remote Part / Scottish Fiction plays the audience have reached a state of peaceful ecstasy, allowing themselves and the room's giant mirror ball to be engulfed in violin and poetry. It's bliss. After a brief ‘thank you and goodnight’ the band return for an eight song encore, a bit of a throwback to their more recent shows including the reworked When I Argue I See Shapes, and the beautiful now almost choral renditions of I Understand It and El Capitan. They close out the night with a fevered finale in A Film For The Future, leaving punters sweaty, smiling, panting and emotionally spent; in many ways, young without youth.