Live Review: Future of the Left, Idles + USA Nails at The Garage, Highbury

The temperature is hovering somewhere around zero as we make the short walk from Highbury & Islington station, scarves pulled up around our faces, to the welcoming entrance of The Garage.  Making our way in from the frosty night however, we discover that they’ve cranked the air conditioning to the point that it’s even colder inside.  Clouds of breath hang over the early cloud like someone’s accidentally left on the smoke machine, and my teeth are genuinely chattering as opening act, London four-piece USA Nails, take to the stage.

Their loose, shouty drone-punk; rising, swerving and plunging like the soundtrack to a drunken helicopter chase, was always likely to find fertile ground here tonight and it’s not long before they’ve added to the healthy smattering of fans in the crowd with a few new converts.

They’re followed by IDLES, who recently been garnering their fair share of appreciation from the nation’s media but, faced with the kind of detached, lethargic reaction that London audiences are often criticised for, you can see the frustration building in frontman Joe Talbot’s mannerisms and between stage banter.

It’s hard to see what more he and his band could do to garner a more energetic response – their set is taut and wiry, peppered with the kind of dark humour and pop-culture assassinations that tonight’s headliners are famed for, and Talbot himself prowls the stage with a hundred yard stare, battering a stray cymbal within an inch of its life between lyrical venom spits.  A more willing audience would have descended into a sweaty mass of writhing limbs, which might have helped to push up the temperature in the still decidedly chilly venue.

No such problems for tonight’s headliners however – Future of The Left, and in particular their frontman Andrew ‘Falco’ Falkous, have long since achieved cult status and from the opening vocal round of ‘adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood’ to an emphatic closing medley every word is chorused back at the band.

Future of the Left released their sixth album The Peace & Truce of Future of the Left earlier this year, but the set list is drawn from across their back catalogue, along with a couple of tracks from Falco’s previous band Mclusky.  Coming into the show, I was in two minds about this – Mclusky have a very special place in my heart (hell, this website is, in part, named after a song from their debut album), but Future of the Left have released plenty of great music in their own right – more than enough to be considered more than just the singer from Mclusky’s new band.  This noble sentiment lasts until approximately 0.001 seconds into a blistering rendition of ‘Without MSG I AM Nothing’, and is completely obliterated by the scatter shot hi-hat intro to ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’, which triggers an explosion of moshing.

That’s not to say that their own material doesn’t incite similar adulation – the opening stabs of ‘Manchasm’ and the hilarious ‘Robocop 4 – Fuck Off Robocop’, are greeted with the same spasms of joy throughout the crowd, and the newer material gets a great reaction too, driven as they are by the same pounding bass from Julia Ruzicka, which manages to be both heavy and danceable at the same time, powerhouse drumming from Jack Eggleston, barbed guitar jabs from Ian Catskilkin (on loan from fellow Joyzine faves Art Brut and Rat The Magnificent) and of course Falco’s wicked tongue, which tonight is aimed pointedly at Nigel Farage, James Dyson, Phil Collins and Nicole Kidman.

It all ends on a fittingly chaotic note, with members of USA Nails joining Falco in dismantling Eggleston’s drum kit piece by piece until he’s left pounding a single skin as Ruzicka and Catskilkin whip up a maelstrom of distortion and feedback.  And with that we take a warm buzzing in our ears out into the frozen night.

Review and Photography by Paul Maps
futureoftheleft.net / idlesband.com / usanailsmusic.tumblr.com

Falco of Future of the Left was our guest on the Joyzine Radio Show last week – check out the podcast here.

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