Gig Review: Athlete – O2 Academy Bristol – Thursday 9th May

Athlete - Played live at O2 Academy Bristol on Thursday 9th MayReview by Abby Render – A decade after releasing debut album ‘Vehicles & Animals’ Athlete are back for an anniversary tour after a two year break from the road. The Indie pop-rockers album was hugely successful, nominated for a Mercury Music prize and soon reaching platinum status. Their catchy choruses and powerful lyrics have kept them a strong fan base for the last 10 years, visible in the O2 Academy in Bristol just before Athlete are due on stage. The crowd is buzzing, a sea of Athlete t-shirts and jumpers in the crowd filled with excited people; clearly these Deptford boys have very loyal fans, even though they’ve all been ‘focusing on other projects’ the last couple of years. At quarter past nine on the dot they kick off with top hit “El Savador”, the opening track to ‘Vehicles & Animals’ album. The plan of the tour is to play the album in its entirety and in track order, featuring well-known songs such as “Beautiful”, “Shake Those Windows”, “You’ve Got The Style” and a particularly popular “Vehicles & Animals” which has the crowd singing along full swing. In fact there are not many songs for which this dedicated crowd is not singing every lyric alongside lead vocalist and guitarist Joel Pott. Pott has a very comfortable relationship with the crowd, informing them about halfway through the gig that the performance is being recorded “so make sure you sing good”. Throughout the gig he is chatting away like they are old friends, giving the vibe of hanging out in the band’s private studio rather than at a packed out gig. The band’s stage presence was passionate and full of energy, their catchy melodic tracks and emotional harmonies really kept the crowd captivated, so much so that you end up wondering why they’ve been absent from the music scene for so long. When the band leaves after blasting out the whole album the room is filled with the shouts of “extras, extras” following on a joke Joel made with the crowd earlier on in the gig about how they should use that as an alternative to ‘encore’. They are soon back on stage for a 6-track encore, with some newer but still well-known tracks such as “Hurricane”, “Half Light” and “Chances”. Of course, they finish off the set with number one hit and arguably their most popular song, “Wires”. The lighters are out, they exhibit a flawless performance and there are few dry eyes in the place. Athlete have certainly proved that they’ve still got it, and though they have been doing this for years and have developed as extremely talented live artists, they have the energy and style of a brand new band on the scene. Sadly there are no plans of yet for any new albums from Athlete, however bass and backing vocalist Carey Willets is working on some solo material. Even still, you can’t help but feel this is a shame when you witness how strong they still are as a band. Find out more about Athlete on their official website