With the Idlewild man’s new solo record got off the presses, Getintothis‘ David Hall headed O2-wards to get the skinny.
Back in the day, Idlewild were right on the verge of being the biggest band in the UK. Off the back of the exciting cult hits of their first two albums, they bagged support slots for the likes of Pearl Jam and the Stones around the release of The Remote Part. There was even a Top Of The Pops performance. For a few months, they really did hold the world in their arms.
They’ve spent the intervening years since then receiving diminishing critical and commercial returns on nevertheless strong albums. Post Electric Blues is more than worthy of your time for example, with superlative songwriting across it’s timespan.
Frontman Roddy Woomble meanwhile has been making a solid go of his solo career in the meantime, with three folk-informed albums, recently joined by a fourth in The Deluder. Liverpool stood as the first date of his UK tour in support of the new album.
But first, replacing an apparently unwell Limerance was local songsmith Johnny Sands, playing to a sparse audience barely papering the O2 walls. Nevertheless his plaintive vocals, doleful guitar and strong material matched his easy manner and carried him through. “How many of you are out there?” Britain’s Best Dressed Man 2010 (and that’s a fact, folks) asked at one point. “Twelve,” came the reply. Meant as a joke, it probably wasn’t a bad estimate.
Is the full band approach that Woomble has taken, most notably on this latest tour and record, distinct enough from his work with Idlewild? Yes, but barely. There’s certainly more light and shade than with the frequently noisy Idlewild, but when Woomble relaxed on stage and draped his wrist across the microphone stand, if you squinted it was just like Idlewild.
His new material meanwhile comes across as more relaxed and informal than ever before, like there’s little left for him to prove and even less riding on it. The snaking violin lines and shy choruses of set opener Like Caruso and the nursery rhyme ditty and mobile bassline that underpinned Jupiter were cases in point. So too the impressive title track from The Deluder.
As Still As I Watch Your Grave and the title track from Woomble‘s debut My Secret Is My Silence stood as crowd-pleasers from his early solo era, as well as I Came In From The Mountain and the personal Waverley Steps. Later on, the encore of a stripped-back version of Idlewild‘s Little Discourage prompted a rousing sing along from the crowd, followed by jazz-inflected new track On N’a Plus de Temps and closing the night with A New Day Has Begun.
Woomble also told the crowd what we have all suspected for years; Mathew Street, Liverpool at 8pm is equivalent to Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow at 3am. Confirmed.
Photos by Getintothis‘ Jim Moody.