As angry, snide, manic British punk rockers go, the members of Idles sure are nice lads.
Mind you, the Bristol-reared quintet still ignited a lot of noise and mayhem Thursday night at the Palace Theatre in St. Paul, the kickoff date for their U.S. tour.
This one hurt, but in all the right ways. It was the kind of show where patrons on the packed theater floor had to constantly be on guard for fear of crowd-surfing audience members — or band members — and for the crazy bursts of needling guitar and crashing cymbals, which often felt as physical in nature as the mosh pit.
Throughout the 90-minute set, though, Idles singer Joe Talbot sprinkled in congenial comments that were like little love notes passed around by the meanest kid in class.
"This is what we have been waiting for for two [bleeping] years," the gravelly voiced frontman said early on, coming off as a cross between "Ted Lasso" grunt Roy Kent and Henry Rollins, with a bit of whale-boat crew member too. "I promise you, we will not take this lightly and will never forget you."
Later, Talbot talked about "building up a beautiful community" at gigs and even urged the audience to love themselves. Then his bandmate Mark Bowen (one of two guitarists) jumped onto the heads of the near-capacity crowd for the fourth or fifth time.
With elements of Gang of Four's jittery post-punk, Black Flag's bursting bombast, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' ugliest dirges and classic Clash/Buzzcocks buzzsaw chop, Idles' musical output stayed surprisingly steady and on-point throughout all the chaos.
Many of the songs were pulled from the U.K.-chart-topping 2020 album "Ultra Mono," for which the group didn't get to tour until now — and it has another new album ready for release next month. The first single, "The Beachland Ballroom," added a brief but welcome shift from the full-throttle adrenaline near show's end as Talbot took on a darker, howling voice á la Screaming Trees' Mark Lanegan.
Big props should go to drummer Joe Beavis, who at once kept Idles on track while repeatedly punching it into overdrive. The mid-show highlight "War" was the drumming equivalent of turning it up to 11. He also impressively took a more stop-and-go rhythmic approach in "Grounds" to match Talbots' stammering words: "Do you hear that thunder? That's the sound of strength in numbers."
For those listening in through the din, Idles' messaging was consistent, too. The band delivered a batch of Brexit-era songs that alternately railed against racism ("Grounds") and machoism ("Never Fight a Man With a Perm") while also offering support to immigrants ("Danny Nedelko") and victims of depression ("1049 Gotho").
So actually, Talbot's between-song banter wasn't the only time he was preaching love. The crowd mostly complied, too. All the rampant body-slamming remained relatively peaceful, and a wild, strength-in-numbers punk-rock camaraderie prevailed that felt surprisingly comforting after the long months of pandemic.