Music review: Idlewild, Summerhall, Edinburgh

Idlewild’s live run-through of their 1998 debut mini-album Captain was a special occasion for all kinds of reasons, writes David Pollock


Idlewild, Summerhall, Edinburgh ****

“All these songs are three or four or five registers above where I normally sing,” warned Idlewild’s singer Roddy Woomble as he took to the stage for the first of two Edinburgh gigs by his band over the weekend. “Especially the screaming parts.”

Ahead of Saturday’s two-and-a-half-hour odyssey in Covid-postponed celebration of last year’s 25th anniversary, they played a short, sharp and very special small show which called back to their Cas Rock days.

The bulk of the set was a run-through of their 1998 debut mini-album Captain, a record more informed by grunge and hardcore punk than their later literary, alternative pop. Captain isn’t even 20 minutes long, but none of its six songs were filler here.

They soared through the spiky, relentless chorus of Self-Healer (“a song is a beautiful lie”) and the title mantra of Annihilate Now!, the doubtful, angry hook of the title song (“I am the captain of what?!”) inspiring a noisy singalong. Woomble introduced Last Night I Missed All the Fireworks as “possibly the most absurd song we ever wrote”, but it sounded just perfect.

The record was rounded off by Satan Polaroid and the sublime You Just Have to Be Who You Are, and it’s no wonder these songs shot them to fame, with their perfect blend of hair-trigger angst and richly memorable punk-pop precision. Part of what made them special here was the thunderous playing of bassist Bob Fairfoull, who left the band under a cloud in 2002.


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Here the original quartet (Woomble, Fairfoull, guitarist Rod Jones and drummer Colin Newton) reunited, lending the night a unique authenticity, and Fairfoull was emotionally welcomed by Woomble as “my friend” and an “Edinburgh folk hero”. Guitarist Allan Stewart joined in for four similarly noisy later-career songs which took the set up to half an hour, among them I’m a Message and Listen to What You’ve Got.

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