Idlewild played a resounding set at the Usher Hall, the hometown leg of their 25th anniversary tour. As with so many events, this was supposed to commemorate their forming in 1995, but Covid delayed their triumphant return by a year. Hurtling through 29 songs from various stages of their nine studio albums, with frequent line-up alterations as members past and present swapped guitars, this was a fantastic show, appreciation of the affirmative audience reaction exuding from Roddy Woomble and the extended Idlewild family.
Their set-closer was 'A Film For the Future,' from their first studio album, Hope is Important (Food, 1998). I drunkenly headbanged to this during one of their splendidly anarchic early appearances at Edinburgh's legendary, long-vanished Cas Rock indie venue (now a Sainsbury's). At that time, their full-throttle sound was indebted to melodic 70s punk and the likes of Husker Du; an NME review memorably described them "the sound of a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs."
They concluded their 1st encore with 'Scottish Fiction,' from third album, The Remote Part (Parlophone 2002), written after the band had decanted to the Scottish Highlands. Reflecting a more introspective sound, Woomble had become friendly with the Scottish Makar, Edwin Morgan, who contributed a voiceover to the track. (Imagine those teenage urchins from 1995 rushing to the top of that flight of stairs then discovering a door into their country's awe-inspiring natural spaces.) Subsequent albums saw them mature into a more sweeping modern Scottish rock band, taking stock of R.E.M. and Echo and the Bunnymen, then launching into the beautifully expansive and evocative sound that has become their signature.
25 years ago, an NME review memorably described Idlewild as the sound of a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs.
What made this homecoming concert even more poignant for myself was the fact I went along with my daughter, Elise, as part of her birthday celebrations. We watched Idlewild together for the final 24 hours of her being a teenager! We were secretly hoping they'd play our joint favourite, 'Idea Track' from 2nd studio album 100 Broken Windows (Food, 2000). This song references Hugh Miller (1802-56), a self-taught Scottish geologist and writer who lived in our neck of the woods, Portobello, Edinburgh. A brilliant researcher, Miller was afflicted by severe headaches, hallucinations, and delusions, which Victorian medicine failed to remedy. Fearing he might harm his wife and children during psychotic episodes, he checked printers' proofs for his forthcoming volume on Scottish fossil plants and vertebrates, 'The Testimony of the Rocks,' then shot himself. He died on Christmas Eve.
On a more positive note, Idlewild were invited to play at the opening of Scotland's Parliament in 1999, marking a seminal moment in the nation's history. (The original Parliament of Scotland was closed in 1707 after English negotiators refused Scottish suggestions for a devolved Edinburgh parliament as part of the Treaty of Union.)