Concorde 2, 16 June 2009
Having a basic knowledge of Athletes previous work I approached the gig at Concorde in hope rather than expectation. However it struck me that with the release of Elbows new album, that has beaten Radioheads immaculate “in rainbows” to win a mercury music prize, Athlete had a lot to live up to. Recapturing the mellow indie rock market would be a tough, task and their new release, “Black Swan” would have to show something special to compete with elbows new release.
However it seemed clear from the outset that the band were unable to commit solely to their new album, consistently referring back to hits such as “Wires” and “El Salvador” in between fleeting glimpses of tracks from “Black Swan”. The warm reception they received when paying these fan favourites was generally not replicated when debuting the new material, and to be honest I can see why.
Athlete have a formula, and they stick to it. I found it hard to differentiate between one song to the next and judging by the crowds relatively muted reaction I would say that they would echo the same sentiments. The title track from the album would be the pick of the bunch, and the slide guitar was nice touch brining a variation to the sound. However even in this relatively dim highlight as soon as the chorus kicked in we were back to the same old sound again.
On a more positive note, Athlete are obviously a very competent band and Joell Pott, the lead singer has a good live voice. They have undoubtedly written some great singles and they perform them well, which is what you want to hear from your favourite bands. They interacted well with the audience and seemed like nice guys, although admitting that they changed the lyrics of one of their songs to fit the name of whatever town they are playing in seemed to me, like a bit of a desperate attempt to get the crowd on their side.
If you like Athlete, then you will like them live as they are much the same as they are on the CD, they did an immaculate job of recreating the sound you get on the album. If I was you though, I would save your 15 quid and bung the CD on the stereo, or better yet, go and buy the new Elbow album, much the same thing but with more substance.
Words by Adam Harris