Live Music + Gig Reviews

Athlete @ Electric Ballroom, London

17 January 2005



I’d like to say I was knocked out by Athlete‘s exertions in Camden… but I’d be lying. That came later. On a pockmarked and puddled north London pavement. After, admittedly, a drink or two too many. Twenty-four hour drinking, Mr Blair? Sorry, but I don’t have the stamina.

We’d arrived at the Electric Ballroom, expectant after seeing the Deptford group play a lively and idiosyncratic set two years earlier, only to find the foursome have been given an uninspiring indie makeover.

Or, as my companion would have it: “Coldplay – but from the wrong side of the tracks.” And therein lies the problem.

Then, melancholy frontman Joel Pott sported a severe short fin, animatedly spitting songs from the stage. Now, all floppy-haired and female-friendly, he flounces his mic about with a painstaking consciousness.

Two years ago they stood out amongst a dirge of dull indie bands; songs from debut Vehicles and Animals were deliciously perfunctory pop. Now, added orchestra and oh-so-earnest lyrics suggest Athlete are anxious to emulate the unassuming success of soundalikes Keane and Snow Patrol. And to think that Snow Patrol were once their support slot…

Few of the songs from forthcoming album Tourist captured the crowd as fully as the old material. A lack of recognition, perhaps. Twenty Four Hours was so insipid I stole away to the bar. In contrast show opener Westside and Beautiful, both from Vehicles and Animals, invoked raucous bottle-waving, arm-shaking, lyric-shouting action from the audience.

The poignant radio-friendly current single Wires is an exception – based on Pott’s experience watching his newborn baby struggle for survival, it is written from the heart and strikes at the soul.

Yet if mainstream prosperity is their goal (and is that so wrong?) Athlete are striding forwards – they’ve achieved blanket TV and radio coverage with Wires, have a string of sold-out dates and a collection of inoffensively tuneful tracks with a ready-made market to share them with.

They’re doubtful to achieve the knock-out success of Coldplay, but could yet show the stamina to go the distance.

And of me? I’m drying out – in more ways than one.

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