Sports Team review, Brixton Academy: Deeply serious about having a good time

·3-min read
Alex Rice of Sports Team performs at Brixton Academy (Jamie McMillan)
Alex Rice of Sports Team performs at Brixton Academy (Jamie McMillan)

“This is all we wanted, so thank you,” says Sports Team’s lead singer Alex Rice to the sold-out Brixton Academy. “I know we can be a difficult band to like sometimes.” The happy throng below don’t seem to agree. They dance, jump around, crowd-surf, scream his words back at it him. At one point a man appears on someone’s shoulders waving two crutches aloft. I hope he’s alright.

If the band cut an anachronistic figure, that’s part of the appeal. They are a jangling indie guitar act, almost a throwback to the Libertines-infused early Noughties, at a time when that is not a fashionable thing to be. They met when they were students at Cambridge and there is a certain knowingness to their lyrics, which are full of affectionate references to Britain. Even Rice’s outfit, an orange vest and leather trousers, is a kind of loving pastiche of a rock-god get-up.

Their reputation has steadily grown over the past three years, off the back of the LP Keep Walking! and last year’s album, Deep Down Happy. Brixton is their biggest gig to date, and there is a celebratory feel. It has already been quite a ride, but there are few signs they are slowing down.

Their irreverence doesn’t mean they aren’t deeply serious about everyone having a good time. They open with “Here it Comes Again”, which gets everyone moving, but it’s not until “M5, a few songs into the set, that things really get going. Their best-known song is a paean to the motorway, with a catchy “ooh-ooh” hook and an explosive chorus. “It’s a wide open motorway,” Rice screams. Only if you set out early enough.

Earlier in the evening, the support act, Wet Leg, prove why they are one of the most exciting new bands of the year. The band comprises Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, two twenty-something friends from the Isle of Wight, and three anonymously hirsute male instrumentalists. In a very 2021 way, they have only released two songs, “Chaise Longue” and “Wet Dream”, but somehow amassed more than 3 million Spotify listens. Evidently more music is on the way, as they manage a full set.

To judge by the rapturous reception they receive, a good portion at the front of the room is there just for them. Both singles are short, infectious indie pop songs, with arch lyrics rich in innuendo. “Mummy, daddy, look at me, I went to school and I got a degree, all my friends call it ‘the big D’”, Teasdale sings. You do not need a higher education to know what she means. Like Sports Team, Wet Leg are enthusiastically dedicated to fun. They are releasing an album next year. I expect you’ll hear more about them.

As for Sports Team, they know exactly what their gang wants and they dish it out in generous portions. By the end, Rice is clambering on the speakers, wading into the crowd, sweaty and shouting and giving it his all. “We’ve got the best crowd in the world,” he yells. They save another propulsive banger, “Here’s the Thing”, for the start of the encore. A few minutes later, after closing with “Kutcher” and “Stanton”, the band stand on stage, arms around each other, while the crowd sings along to Robbie Williams drifting out of the PA. It’s “Angels”, but another of his songs might have been more appropriate. We have let them entertain us.

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