26 September 1999. Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton. Band: Idlewild. Album: ‘Hope Is Important’. In attendance: one excited teenage girl, amidst plenty of other sweaty youths.
Fast forward almost fifteen years to 7 August 2013. Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh. Roddy Woomble in double denim and a new album to promote, ‘Listen to Keep’. In attendance: a full, respectful, seated audience.
Proof that artists rarely recognise their finest work, Idlewild has since described ‘Hope Is Important’ as ‘a confused, skewered, noisy, sad pop record’. Reviews in Melody Maker and NME compared early live gigs to ‘a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs’ – a wonderful line that perfectly captures the unpredictability and punkiness of an early Idlewild gig.
So what of Roddy Woomble, the solo performer? The first thing to note is that all four musicians – Woomble, bass guitarist Gavin Fox, guitarist Sorren Maclean, and violinist and keyboard player Seonaid Aitken – are comfortably seated in a row along the stage in front of a black curtain. How ironic that the singer of a band that sounded like a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs should now be so comfortably and resolutely seated. Don’t get up, indeed.
All of this speaks volumes. The songs are pleasant at best, instantly forgettable and tiresome at worst. The sound is rich and warm and the musicians clearly technically competent, but the set is too samey and safe to hold much interest. Songs such as ‘Every Line of A Long Moment’ and ‘I Came In From the Mountain’ reveal a fascination with nature, the sea, and countryside. ‘Waverley Steps’ gets a big cheer from someone in the audience, the lights go up, but the song itself is underwhelming. The Band’s ‘Twilight’ gets the Woomble-treatment and therefore sounds remarkably similar to almost every other song in the set. ‘The Last One of My Kind’ is poppy, upbeat, and toe-tapping and thankfully makes no mention of anchors, mountains, coffee, or harbours.
I’d prefer a bit more noisiness and confusion than this rocking chair and slippers music, which is offensive in its inoffensiveness – particularly from someone who appeared to have such fire in his belly. Woomble is unfortunately no wild idol anymore.