Sports Team

Sports Team @ Birmingham O2 Institute 2, 13th October 2022

Sports Team might just be the saviours of British guitar music. With their second album ‘Gulp!’ recently following their debut into the top 3 of the album charts and an ever-increasing fanbase helping them sell out large venues on their current tour, it’s perhaps a little surprising to see that the Birmingham date has been shifted down to the cosy former Barfly venue downstairs at the Institute. Fortunately, it gives the band and audience a chance to connect in a more intimate setting with the London six-piece seemingly relaxed and ready to put on a show.

Sports Team

The band’s focal point is undoubtedly vocalist Alex Rice who tonight emerges wearing a pair of faux-leather dungarees and launches himself around the stage on opener ‘Here It Comes Again’, rushing through a frantic monologue over clever Strokes-inspired guitars whilst ‘The Game’ quickly ups the ante with a punkish approach and anthemic chorus perhaps only hinted at by The Vaccines and a highlight of the band’s summer on the festival circuit. Lyrically there’s plenty of references to different aspects of modern life in London, but unlike the Britpop bands with a romanticised view of their homeland, Sports Team talk about both sides of the coin on tracks like ‘Happy’ and ‘The Races’ – just as likely to bring up the unsavoury characters we’ve all encountered as well as the joys of pubs and parks but all the more relatable for it.

Guitarists Rob and Henry shine on tracks like ‘R Entertainment’ and when the band do drop it down a notch on the mellower ‘Cool It Kid’ it’s easy to appreciate just how well-structured the songs are. “I know that one’s not really a mosher, but I feel that if you grow to like it you can grow up with us” says Alex to the crowd, before giving them another chance to dance with fan favourites ‘Camel Crew’ and ‘Going Soft’, coming down to the barrier to interact with the front row and later starting a conversation with someone between songs as if they were just meeting up in a pub. He’s got plenty of nice things to say about Birmingham’s ‘B-Town’ indie scene, revealing the band were big fans of Superfood and singing a few lines of Peace’s ‘Lovesick’ as well as drawing attention to keyboardist Ben on his birthday who notably remains as expressionless as possible throughout the band’s performances and does his best not to react.

Rob takes lead vocal duties on ‘Light Industry’, giving Alex a short break before the run of “big songs” at the end of the set raise the atmosphere, especially on the lively ‘M5’ and ‘Here’s The Thing’ allowing for singalongs and mosh pits, whilst ‘Kutcher’ is a bit of cheeky fun and closer ‘Stanton’ ends with Alex held aloft on his back by the crowd as the rest of the band attack their instruments with all their remaining energy. Tonight’s show is another step in establishing Sports Team as the flag bearers for a new wave of British guitar bands and perhaps the last time we’ll see them play in such an intimate venue for a while.

Fat Dog

Support on this tour comes from mysterious London rave-rockers Fat Dog, who preface their set with an ominous 2 minute warning before the collective launch into a blend of techno, ska and rock that perhaps the majority of the audience weren’t expecting. Featuring a screaming frontman in a Stetson, a drummer in a full-head dog mask and a saxophonist amongst their ranks, their unique sound initially seems designed to confuse and there’s a little bit of hesitation from the crowd as vocalist Joe repeatedly shouts things like “Fat Dog baby!” and “show me the way!” whilst making his way into the crowd and encouraging some movement. However it quickly becomes apparent that Fat Dog simply want to get the party started, handing out a cowbell and adding some industrial-sounding beats into the mix alongside a danceable bassline on the funky ‘King Of The Slugs’. There’s plenty of twists and turns to make the music unpredictable and interesting and even if the lyrics are difficult to make out, it’s a fun start to the evening that succeeds in warming everyone up and leaves a lasting impression.


Review: Ian Paget

Photographs: Ian Dunn


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