17th November | Thekla
Photos: Lorenzo Ottone and Ellie Thomas
Judging from the first date, Sports Team‘s November/December UK tour is promising to be a confident victory lap. Just in time – before the band gets ready to turn British guitar music upside down with their upcoming debut album. However, it’s more than a round of applause that the six-piece got at Thekla. To be accurate, it was a round of about eight stage invasions, ecstatic crowd surfing, wild mosh-pitting and merciless beer spillage.
It’s not the first time in music history that the future success of an act is based on its live performances, to the point of becoming the turning point of their career. Think of James Brown’s Live at The Apollo, for example. An album that seemed arrogant by a then-yet-to-become Godfather of Soul, but that eventually crowned Brown as such. It may then come as a surprise, but it really shouldn’t, that Sports Team offer a live LP of their March 2019 Electric Ballroom performance at their merch stall before even releasing a full-length album.
Their repertoire, though, is enough to fill a ‘Greatest Hits’ already. As frontman, Alex Rice jokes, “Joey Ramone once said that you can never get bored with a 30-minute set, so we’re going to play for half hour tonight.” However, in a tight hour of music, there never is a dull moment. All of the six-piece’s numbers could be potential singles and radio hits.
From early track, ‘Stanton’ to latest single, ‘The Races’, Sports Team provide a poignant vignette of England and its people. Their witty yet romantic social commentary outstandingly depicts suburban life, putting the band as contemporary successors of Damon Albarn, Ray Davies and Philip Larkin. Please, give Sports Team the election night coverage. If it goes well, we’ll sing along; if it doesn’t, we’ll have a laugh, at least.
Their simple yet infectious melodies are addictive indie-rock gems with a pop appeal. It’s no wonder that the band’s audience ranges from excited underaged teens to Discogs dads, busy to invest in the band’s latest 7″ release. There’s even a mum sporting an Ashton Kutcher tee, in tribute of the band’s single of that title.
Sports Team sound incredibly familiar yet distinctively unique, even, or should we say especially, when deliberately ripping off Duck Sauce hit ‘Barbra Streisand’ in ‘M5′. By avoiding taking themselves too seriously and allowing stage imperfections, the six-piece have brought enthusiasm back in British guitar music, overshadowing the countless post-punky bands that have blossomed in the UK over the last couple of years. For once, we hear someone not trying to impersonate the late Mark E. Smith and actually singing lyrics, rather than putting on a spoken-word performance.
The gig intro is left in the hands of Robbie Williams’ ‘Let Me Entertain You’. This is Sports Team’s declaration of war, but also a statement suggesting that the band’s fascination for the 90s shamelessly looks, with a post-modern cheekiness, at the decade’s pop culture rather than to its lad rock.
Rice takes the flower-adorned stage by squirting water from his mouth onto the crowd, before he starts a restless and ecstatic series of moves that see him twisting his New Balance and addressing the crowd as the 21st century hybrid of a swaggering Jagger and a cocky Liam Gallagher.
Sports Team are THE live band of 2019.
See the video for ‘Fishing’ here: