Nos Alive is our summer festival of choice. Not only is it held in our favourite city, Lisbon in sunny Portugal, we don’t have to endure the drunk 4am rendition of Wonderwall at the campsite because we use a hotel up the road.
While this year, the quality of the acts felt a little thin (too many mid range middle aged never will quite make its) there was still enough going on to make the pulse race. Primal Scream held my key attention on day 2 while Idles were the darlings of day 3. My praise and affection on day 1 was heaped onto Loyle Carner (lucky chap) but that tale would be for a different music speciality website.
I still recall the days where Bobby Gillespie was something of an unpredicable dour Scot and while he has been sober for a decade or so, it’s still a surprise to see him in his familiar bright pink suit, but on time and with a big welcoming grin on his face. This Primal Scream set was a hour of crowd pleasing with a back catelogue that never grows old or tired. Age shall not wither them.
While the performance had us as captivated as a Primal Scream gig always does, it almost felt like a too easy run through for the band, although if they were bored totally by bringing out the old songs once again, they didn’t show it; there were plenty of easy smiles in the Lisbon sunshine.
There was a genuinely amusing moment where Bobby had to whisper in the ear of bassist Simone Butler to remember the Portuguese word for “thank you”. To be honest it took me a while to learn the etticate (it has a different ending depending on whether you associate as man or woman at a particular time). As to how non binary associated Tash Santana (who played a good but slightly over fussy and complicated set at Nos) felt about with settling on the female form is anyone’s guess.
So, we were treated to a pretty note perfect run through of the Primal Scream hits culminating in a mad triptych of songs to close; Swastika Eyes, Country Girl and Loaded. Even my missus braved the strident Lisbon coastal breeze and had to take her jacket off for the final frenzy as we pretended we were once again in a field in 1990 in the middle of nowhere.
It wasn’t always a straightforward set; Rocks Off, for example, was given a slow lazy lingering treatment which left the sizable audience just chilling in the summer sun. This is true festival vibe and I recommend anyone who has never caught Primal Scream live to catch this institution as quickly as possible.
Outspoken Gillespie recently claimed white music is dead because it no longer has anything to say. He clearly had not heard Idles.
While Primal Scream presented a well deserved tribute to themselves, Idles were a very different proposition the following day. This was a band still striving to assert itself and with a message to share and persuade.
Rather than it feel like an assured run through, Idles were thrusting and punchy throughout their set. My phone told me I was roaming and it was true; in the space of an hour I had migrated from the back of the tent to the boundaries of the good natured mosh pit at the front. Again I idly pondered if I have one final crowd surf in me.
Lead singer Joe Talbot spent a little time explaining the meaning of and inspiration for the songs to the audience. Male depression and suicide, inequality, anger at the government, praise for hard working immigrants and appreciation of the NHS all got a sound check. I did wonder what the Portugese in the audience made of it all with the language barrier, but I didn’t detect the complete bafflement that the locals displayed to the Sleaford Mods or Young Fathers in festivals gone past. However the line “The best way to beat a Tory is to read and get rich” may have confused folk unsure about what a tory is.
Most of the locals simply rode the strident punching music and the positive vibes and again I pondered whether the pumping arm muscles of the audience might be willing and able to hold my form aloft for a while.
I must be a rare breed in that I actually prefer the less complex music and message in the first Idles album Brutalism. This is the album I give more plays to and I was delighted that some of my favourites from this album found their way onto the set list. So it was that I found myself as a leading component of a small group of fans into bellowing out the lyrics of the likes of Mother while allowing others to take the lead on much of the material from Joy As An Act of Resistence.
There’s nothing quite like the full release and abandon of a gig you are completely subsumed into. I may not understand the tribalism of football but I’m always comforted and replenished when I feel part of a sole organism of a single focussed mind at a gig.
Talking of crowd surfing it was a delight to see a shirtless, shorts wearing Mark Bowen taking his guitar on tour atop of the audience for much of the gig. Its no mean skill to keep the guitar riffs flowing while being bounced around on your back. In these days where body image adds yet more angst and a chance to look down on the mortal form of others Bowen wore his sweat, his thirty something dad bod and sprawling chest hair with pride. Its hard to imagine Bowen as an NHS dentist. Grab an extra Roast Potato when you fancy it and place those razors aside. Be more Bowen.
It might be a fairy tale Idles gig and review ending if I were to suggest that in the Idles spirit of harmony and oneness, a couple of young local lads and a girl grinning and appreciating the sheer effort involved within my enthaustic dad dancing and hollering back the lyrics, offered me some well formed bud nicely rolled and ready to go. It might be that like a politician we could mention, that to avoid offense, I moved that perfectly formed object to my lips but didn’t inhale. It might be that shortly after the gig I felt replete enough to roll home with a fine gutsy dark ruby coloured bottle of red Dao with my beloved, to shoot the breeze in our hotel room where the following morning the only trace of the previous evening came in the form of a wrist band, a lopsided grin, a few accusatory red spots of wine on the crisp hotel bedsheets and an empty bottle lying postate on its side at a jaunty angle on the floor.
Of course none, some, or all of these things may have happened but one thing I can assure you of, dear reader, this is definitely not the end of my relationship with either Idles or Nos Alive.
Photo Credit: Clash Magazine