Athlete - Preston Guild Hall - 30.1.04

With a critically acclaimed album being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, support slots for Suede and high praise from the music press, Athlete are the new darlings of the indie scene. A winning formula of witty intelligent lyrics, irresistibly catchy melodies and an unmistakably English individuality make Athlete a promising live prospect at the sold out Guild Hall. The venue is jam packed with students and couples and it's evident that Athlete attract a youngish audience.

The band arrive to a rapturous applause as the four youngsters perform their former single "El Salvador" with a heady mix of giddy enthusiasm and sheer delight. I'm sure that any similarity to Avril Lavigne's "Complicated" is purely co-incidental. Lead singer Joel Pott has the same technique as Pavements Steve Malkmus, half sung, half spoken, a laid back yet effective vocal with his own distinctive regional accent intact. The Athlete audience know the songs word for word, even the album tracks and it's a joy to witness such passion in a fans dedication to their favourite band. The slower, less poppier songs have an epic quality, mirroring the intensity of Coldplay at their finest, "Out Of Nowhere" being a prime example. "Vehicles And Animals" has the plucky singer strumming his acoustic guitar with just the keyboards backing for an alternative, more restrained version from the album and sounding all the better for it. "New Projects" is like any other Athlete song with an ending that's pure techo overdrive. The tongue in cheek "Westside", which only reached number 42 in the charts should be re-released as it deserves another chance to be a chart smash. In "Shake Those Windows" they namedrop Preston and "One Of Those Day" finishes with a fast and furious jamming session, quite wild and uninhibited for Athlete but a welcome change from the norm.

After this musical workout the band depart the stage as we catch our breath following the bands anarchic activity. Thankfully Athlete return for new song "Tourist" which sees the guys taking a rockier direction. Athlete are a band who are hard to dislike. They're hardworking, polite, genuinely amiable guys who play to the best of their abilities. However at times their material can become a little repetitive and a tad one dimensional, but the  formula works though so why change it!!!

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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