Gig Review

Plus Loney, Dear And Sad Paw
Southampton, Guildhall
10th October 2007

Athlete                    Loney, Dear      Sadpaw

I'd only just found my place in the crowd when Sadpaw walked on stage. I use the term crowd loosely, of course. Doors had only been opened a matter of minutes and there was only a thin smattering of folks in the room. I was virtually right at the front, and with comfortable space around me. That was to be expected; Athlete isn't the kind of stuff that makes you want to throw yourself at a stranger, is it. More of a group whose songs make you want to throw your arms around the nearest person and sing at the top of your lungs. Many people couldn't fight off these urges inevitably it seems, but I'm getting ahead of myself. It was now time for Sadpaw.

A three piece, from Northern Ireland, London and Sweden, Sadpaw were an interesting bunch, with equally interesting music. A good interesting though. Two gents, one in a blazer, one in a waistcoat, were at the bass and drums, respectively. And a lady, who looked fresh out of a 9-5 office job, was at the keyboards and some other strange wooden box. (To this day I don't know what it was.) So it was just drum, bass, and keyboard. Or so it seemed. The music was gentle, nothing in your face at all, with quaint little songs. I seemed to notice a strange theme about transport. Maybe the Guildhall's dreadful sound was playing a role in this, or maybe I was genuinely hearing choruses about ambulances and helicopters. The helicopter was a definite, they announced it, but the ambulance... I'm not so sure. One song was “the most stupid song in the world” according to the drummer, who was also the vocalist. Titled, “You Got The Fire,” I actually thought it was pretty good. With the vocals coming mainly from the drummer, and regular additions from the other members, there was a very Arcade-Fire-esque sound going on, with the Arcade Fire song “No Cars Go” in mind. If you've heard it, hopefully you can grasp what I'm getting at. A mix of vocals that don't necessarily stick strictly to the limitations of scale, and a contrast of deep male, and high female sounds. The drummer whipped out an acoustic. A lad to my left commented that he'd be impressed if he still played the drums. I'm guessing he was impressed, as up on stage, yes indeed, the lead of the band played acoustic, played drums, and sung. Admittedly, it was only kick and hi-hat, but a bloody good effort nevertheless. I'm not sure the crowd were really feeling them, but I didn't think they were bad at all. Good effort.

Next up, were Loney, Dear. I'd actually heard of these guys, surprisingly. Fresh out of Sweden, and on a label that Athlete have worked with, I'd been sent their CD to review earlier in the year. I didn't know what to make of it either. It was very ambient and raw, and some songs had a very 'campfire' quality about them. There is nothing crisp and commercial about Loney, Dear, they are very much the opposite. Four guys and a girl on the keys again, the songs they produced were a lot less linear. And every single one seemed to feature something that I hadn't picked up on when I listened to the CD. Maybe it wasn't on there, or maybe I wasn't paying attention. But in every song they played the vocalist would start madly wailing, fluctuating in pitch and generally just throwing his voice all over the place. This repetition made the whole set seem like one long song, and unfortunately, it got a little dull. I recognised a few songs like “I Am John,” which is probably my favourite of theirs. At the end of the song, the gentle vocals escalate into some crazy BeeGees-come-Smurf singing. Fairly mental but entertaining nevertheless. When it came for crowd participation, things went downhill. As opposed to a couple of lines to sing back, we were instructed four and half bars of a slow song. And the fact each bar was different made it tricky. The room was still filling up, and this coupled with the mighty feat on the crowds hands, meant that the callbacks were near to silent. But they took it in good spirits, smiling and joking in a very Scandinavian way.

This is Athlete's first proper UK tour in nearly two years, and it was clear they had been missed off of the circuit. The response from the audience upon the band's entrance was phenomenal. How can a room go from silence to deafening noise? That says a lot about the music Athlete create, doesn't it. Before the entrance to stage however, there was a small light show to music. Not really a show. Just the lights shining from side to side in a very arty fashion. Cool blue. Very nice. Opening with a song off of the new album, the name of which I'm not entirely sure, the crowd were instantly under the Athlete trance, swaying from side to side gently and nodding their heads. One couple near me, who looked to be in their fifties perhaps, knew ever word to every song, whether it be old or new. And I just thought I hope I'm like that in thirty years. It wasn't long before we'd found a classic Athlete song in the set list, it must have been in the opening two or three maximum, but every single person without fail in the room was singing along to the chorus of “You Got The Style.” When the intro to “Hurricane,” began, everyone knew the pace was about to pick up a little. And just as I was feeling disappointed about the lack of lights, the main riff kicked in and the entire back wall exploded into a bright red light. Athlete are a five-piece band from London, and if anything it's the singer's voice that makes their sound so distinctive. He was strolling around the stage with his guitar, and really getting into it. The remaining four members were relatively static, but that didn't matter, everything you needed to know about the bands energy and passion came from Joel, the man at the front of it all. They played through a perfect blend of songs spanning across all three albums, each one an epic in its own right. “Shake Those Windows” was played along with “Tourist,” “Half Light,” and “Airport Disco” from the new album, a very slow atmospheric song. The new single “Tokyo,” with its Streets-like piano intro and just general awesomeness, was probably up there as one of the best songs of the evening. An obvious highlight of the show was “Wires,” for which everyone was singing along, and for “Westside,” Joel messed up the intro and had to start again.

“Does someone else want to come up here and sing it?”
He started playing, to silence from the crowd.
“Ah well it seems none of you know the words either.”

The bassist would come across the stage to play a second keyboard for a couple of songs, and occasionally other members would join in drumming a certain part of a song, or a special outro.

“This song is for everyone, whether you're English, Irish, French, whatever. But we're singing about English because we're English.”

It was a song from the new album called “The Outsiders” which just talks about being English and what we do. Such as, getting drunk and fighting. A valid point. There was something very obvious to me, missing from the set that was played. Namely, “El Salvador,” one of their most famous singles. I'm guessing there was a good reason, but still, it was sorely missed. As the last few songs were played, “24 Hours” and “Beautiful,” there was a real buzz in the room that we had witnessed an amazing show. Joel would climb on top of monitors and such, and call out into the crowd for everyone to sing along.

“Thanks for singing and clapping when I've told you to. Tonight wouldn't have been so great without you lot.”

And that was that.

Review By Thom


Joel Pott (guitar, vocals)
Carey Willetts (bass)
Tim Wanstall (keyboards)
Stephen Roberts (drums)
 Loney, Dear

Emil Svanängen

Coming Soon
 Band Related Links
Athlete Myspace
Loney Dear Myspace
Sad Paw Myspace
 Review Score Code
- Top Cheese
- Brilliant
- Pretty damn good
- Ok I guess
- What Was That?