The waif-like Inara George has no angst, and little melancholy—making her a curious opening tourmate for the Scottish punk-folkers, Idlewild. And yet, like salty pretzels and sweet chocolate, it’s an eclectic combination that works.
Daughter of the infamous Lowell George, lead singer of down-home, classic roots-rock band, Little Feat, Inara’s voice is less like the belly-and-heart of her father, and more ambient and languishing, like a lazy river flowing by.
From Topanga Canyon, California, Inara’s voice was oftentimes reminiscent of Suzanna Vega, to whom she told Nighttimes.com she’s often compared. Not hurting the performance, Inara George couldn’t have had a tighter five-piece band behind her, which also included Idlewild’s guitarist and founding partner, Rod Jones. Inara’s stream-of-consciousness-style lyrics positively reeked of the folksy hippie influences of her mentors, Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones.
As Inara George charmed the crowd with her big eyes, pixie haircut and seductive smile, Beatle Bob shook it up on the dance floor in an arhythmic boogie so funny that Inara joined in, hopping in unison. For her last track, Idlewild’s lead singer, Roddy Woomble, joined her for a duet on a somber, unidentified tune by Leonard Cohen.
Idlewild, however, was the band the crowd was there to see.
Opening with “Been Too Long Away,” lead singer, Roddy Woomble looked every bit the adorable schoolboy, and the entire band wore that very UK-look of being underfed, in shabby clothes, chain-smoking, with dirty, messy hair. It just makes you want to take them home, pop them in the tub, then tuck them into bed with a story after a good stick-to-the-ribs meal. [Ed.—OK, so I’m obviously a mom!]
“Do you say ‘St. Louie or St. Louis?” Woomble asked the crowd. After hearing mixed answers, he said, “If it’s whatever I want, I’m gonna make it St. Louie.”
Playing a solid spread of songs from their five-album career, the guys sounded flawless, able to pull off all those intricate harmonies and gorgeous layers of sonic resonance and emotion. Rod Jones’ great backing vocals came across just as strong live as on CD, and it was hard not to go completely ga-ga over their Scottish accents every time they started chatting between songs. Even their name sounds different when they say it: “Aye-dull-wild.”
With a fairly full room at the Duck Room in Blueberry Hill on a St. Louis weeknight, it’s still a crime that a band this great and internationally-recognized isn’t selling out the Pageant. Still, it’s a treat to see the guys so up-close-and-personal, and even better to be able to shake hands and chat before and after the gig.
“Why are their so many ducks?” Roddy asked, looking around at the decoys in the Duck Room. “Ah, it’s the duck bar. It seems so simple!” Well, we didn’t bother to correct him on the name. All we cared about was that the best-sounding band was playing in the best-sounding venue in town. “I know you all have a giant arch which I haven’t seen,” he continued, musing about St. Louis.
The band ran through hit after hit, turning “The Space Between All Things” into a longer jam so Roddy could go have a smoke on the side of the stage. Coming back to stage center he smeared his hair about and led the band into the wonderful, “As If I Hadn’t Slept.”
Perhaps the only disappointment (for this writer, anyway) was the omitting of two of the new album’s strongest songs, “I Want A Warning,” and “Obvious Ways.” Rod Jones told us later, “Well, I hate ‘I Want A Warning,’ and Colin [Newton, drums] hates ‘Obvious Ways.’
So I guess that settles it then.
There are a few dates left for their US Headline tour. Catch them if you can!:
October 4th: Santa Cruz, CA
October 5th: San Francisco, CA
October 7th: Los Angeles, CA
October 8th: San Diego, CA
October 11th: Phoenix, AZ
[Picture of Idlewild live from their website: www.idlewild.co.uk]