Album Reviews

Athlete @ Somerset House, London

3 August 2005

Athlete are a band at the height of their powers and have come a long way from their first gig in a Deptford pub in 2002. This week they performed for the first time at one of the live scene’s most revered new venues, namely the courtyard of Somerset House. Boosted by being on their home turf, the four-piece fought back jetlag from recent Japanese appearances to give an assured performance to a sell out crowd.

Front man Joel Pott deserves top marks for realising that this summer-soaked crowd were up for a jolly good festival style singalong. He wasted no time in milking their material’s anthemic appeal to get the crowd joining in.

But while the performances were mostly faultless, more attention could have been paid to the set list. The first half was predominantly made up of the more poignant, mature sound of second album Tourist. At times the pace needed an injection of the spunky, jaunty pop from their debut Vehicles and Animals. For me, anthem fatigue began to set in, but the tummy-tappers and mobile phone snappers seemed pleased. In the era of Coldplay it is important for bands to realise that an anthem doesn’t have to be maudlin in order to succeed.

Luckily the lads won me over with a blistering second half including a rousing version of Wires (cue a lump in the throat after hearing a track I felt I’d got bored with ages ago). A track dedicated to those who died in the recent terror attacks may have sounded trite from any other band, but Athlete’s hearts are in the right place and their local boy credentials made this a sincere, moving moment.

Licensing imposed curfews meant that things were cut short – without this they could seemingly have gone on all night. I went home pleased at seeing a memorable gig. Hopefully Athlete can find the right balance of emotion and quirkiness for their next album, and then the world will surely be at their feet.

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More on Athlete
Athlete – Black Swan
Athlete @ KOKO, London
Athlete @ Somerset House, London
Athlete – Tourist
Athlete @ Electric Ballroom, London