Sports team @ The Electric Ballroom
As Sports Team’s singer and one-man-whirlwind Alex Rice falls to his knees towards the end of their sold out show at The Electric Ballroom, panting heavily, quite possibly suffering from heat stroke after running around the stage in a full matador costume for 40 minutes, it becomes evident that he has really taken their walk-on music choice of Let Me Entertain You to heart.
It is no wonder that the band are so hell-bent on providing a good time for those before them. Building a reputation as one of the most exciting live bands around with solid touring throughout 2018, Sports Team have managed to cultivate a fan-base with a flagrant disregard for the natural rate of progression of a British indie band. If selling out Scala in September on the back of one EP may have come to many as a surprise, then tonight’s sold-out show, still with no full-length record in sight, proves that it is unwise to underestimate the strength of will of the self-dubbed ‘Sports Team Community’.
In a real statement of intent, the set is front-loaded with a hat-trick of singles spanning their two EP releases (Camel Crew, Beverly Rose, M5). The band’s performance is raw and propulsive from the get-go, with frontman Alex Rice seemingly able to take the fierce energy of the crowd and amplify it back to them. In an era of guitar music not short of commanding vocal focus-points, the unabashed sincerity of Rice’s joyful abandon as he hammers the microphone to his heart, shouts words of encouragement off-mic to the teenagers at the front, and proclaims this to be ‘genuinely the best night of [his] life’, is truly refreshing.
It is the mid-set one-two of Margate and Winter Nets which really proves why the band have managed to propel itself to venues of this size. In Winter Nets the band are able to turn a simple refrain of ‘I am ready for the lie’ into an out and out pop chorus echoed back from all corners of the venue, and show that Sports Team have a knack for that holy grail of all songwriters, the simple, catchy-as-fuck, ear-worm of a chorus. Margate, on the other hand, with its extended instrumental breakdown, encapsulates just what a live prospect this band is. As lead guitarist Henry Young’s blisteringly distorted guitar lines weave their way through, Rice all limbs as he lunges around the stage, the band’s ode to British summertime at breakneck speed proves that the acclaim for their live performances is well-deserved.
As the set progresses the band’s respect for the confines of the stage begins to disintegrate. Breakout single Kutcher (which provides by far the greatest reaction of the crowd on the night, and that’s before the balloons descend on them from the ceiling in the final chorus), sees Rice climb the scaffolding to orchestrate the crowd from atop the venue’s speaker stand, whilst drummer Al Greenwood becomes an audience member herself as finale Stanton begins, crowd-surfing whilst Rice fills in at the drum kit.
As Stanton reaches its climax Rice begins to flail his arms with such rapidity he begins to resemble a bull-fighting Ian Curtis (again, probably the heat stroke), but he is able to regain just enough clarity of mind to thank the fans that have turned The Electric Ballroom into a celebratory sweatbox tonight. As the lights go up and Robbie Williams’ Angels beckons us to the exits, one wonders to what improbable place both band and fans’ work ethics will take us next.