Sports Team at Brixton Academy
“We’re not an easy band to like,” admits Sports Team frontman Alex Rice. It’s a curious comment to make just four songs into the six-piece’s debut outing at Brixton Academy. But given the criticism the Camberwell band have faced for their perceived privilege and gobbyness (a 2019 interview with The Guardian came in for particular scorn), it’s perhaps not a surprise that Rice goes on the defensive so soon.
If there are any doubters in tonight, though, they’re drowned out by thousands of die-hards, each more raucous than the last. The Academy is not quite a sell-out, but nonetheless it’s an impressive turnout given the relative infancy of the band’s career.
Deep Down Happy highlight Here It Comes Again opens up proceedings with a bang. It’s a tune that has seemingly already achieved that rare status of being able to whip a crowd into a frenzy with a single strummed chord. Elsewhere, the Pavement-esque Kutcher feels like a bonafide indie disco anthem, while non-album single M5 (bafflingly omitted from their debut LP) boasts their most instant hook to date.
Drummer Al Greenwood’s propulsive beats are rock-solid, and guitarists Rob Knaggs and Henry Young provide the raucous backbone of the set. But there’s no doubt that the electric Rice is the main draw. By the conclusion of second number Going Soft, he’s already stripped off two layers (a big coat with a fur-lined hood and a zip-up jacket, in case readers are wondering) and prancing around in a tank top. He’s somewhere between Art Brut frontman Eddie Argos and a turbo-charged Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
It’s not all perfect just yet – at times, the set can feel a little one note. While Sports Team are clearly adept at the scrappy, up-tempo songs they’ve made their calling card, it gets a little repetitive towards the backend of the performance. There’s a fine line between invoking dry British wit in the tradition of Blur and Madness, and simply listing random suburban idiosyncrasies: it’s hard to shake the feeling that they toe it rather precariously during a few numbers.
Despite this, Sports Team clearly have something about them. If it’s not the most variety-filled set you’ll ever see, it’s certainly one of the more passionately delivered. Rice may feel they’re hard to like, but, on the evidence of tonight, there’s no shortage of those who do. And they don’t seem to be going away any time soon.
Photos: Virginie Viche
For further information and future events visit Sports Team’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Happy (God’s Own Country) here: