Athlete with support from Gemma Hayes and Magnet (Manchester Apollo Theatre 25/10/05)
The ebullient and gregarious Bergen born Even Johansen, brainchild of the outfit was compactly supported by his connected backing group to make up Magnet; the early bird crafted indie risers. They proudly produced a stirring and pulsating set that unashamedly paraded numbers from recent Class A album; 'Tourniquet'.
Highlight offering 'Peacemaker', had a Turin Brakes performing on a tumble dryer with backing from Sigur Ros feel to it, enchanting those jostling for a decent spot for the main act. The people gazed on enthralled in the carefree musical journey whose destination is anywhere you want to go. Maybe it is the year spent Bristol that has provided a bit of steel to Even's music? He built solidly from a show that raised eyebrows and opened mouths a few years back at the Night & Day Cafe in this self same city. The staunch Man Utd fan; Johansen skilfully played the crowd with his charming yet troubled songs and cheeky between song banter. He draws energy for his other love of football from a striking orange puma (the brand, not the predator) tattoo, but tonight his songs and drive came from a sincere but troubled heart.
The retiring and relaxing Irish soul searcher; Gemma Hayes found this hallowed hall a perfect place to tease out her caressing Carole King voice that was cushioned by a gripping folk tainted, backing band. Hairs on the back of the neck raised like Manchester United season ticket prices in the soft and seductive, solo acoustic ode 'Easy On The Eye' that had every male in the house thinking;
"Imagine if I were the person she is singing about!"
Gemma's pulsating pop side came out in the troubled 'Gotta Low' that demonstrated her thought provoking nature. A retiring disposition made it difficult for her to get her point across between songs. This just made Gemma all the more endearing, as her self deprecatory side came out when she derided herself for being the antithesis of Rock & Roll by sipping camomile tea. Given the pleasing reception she received on closing the set, there was probably a rush for this product in the bar later on.
After an energetic tour to the USA, the friendly and yearning Londoners Athlete told an expectant crowd how much they had longed for another UK tour. This lit the fuse of an already keen and knowledgeable crowd to spark off an explosive set that opened with the frisky "YTEAM'. It was the buoyant 'Half Light" that brought out the party spirit out in a Tuesday night crowd. Front man Joel Pott paid homage to the hardcore support that had followed them right from the start at their humble Academy gigs. It was at these gigs that the now favourite and the polished; 'Westside' sounded raw and very much like a work in progress, but tonight it was turned from an uncut diamond into a jewel.
The politically poignant 'You Got The Style' shone out for its catchiness and brazen honesty, as the political nettle of the Burnley & Bradford race riots was grasped; you won't hear Cameron & Davis discussing this in the near future. The ever popular 'Wires' and new single '24 Hours' ended respective sets, this epitomised Athlete's growing catchiness. They took time out to get some respect for tonight's support acts, but the respect must go them, as they picked them. Their musical tastes and stage presence has obviously flowered in the shining limelight over the last year. They made sure that everyone was involved in the experience before them and even in the dying notes of the evening Joel was up close and personal with the lucky few at the front, before leaving a satisfying grin on most who embarked upon this leg of Athlete's run
Afterwards I was lucky enough to catch up with bassist; Carey Willetts. After such a storming gig back in the UK I asked him how the year had gone and what highlights there were
from the tour so far?
"I think Leeds was amazing and the response we got was incredible".
Tourist has further developed the Athelete machine and fine tuned all the great points from classic debut "Vehicles And Animals". The newly recorded b side to "24 hrs" that was played live tonight, showed a different side and gave us a glimpse of third album prospects;
"The next album would have to be better than the last"
Replied Carey to my inquisitive appetite for more of the same melancholic tunes they produce without effort it seems. How long will we have to wait i wanted to know? His response only instilled hope indeed for another blinder to complement the last two offerings from such an up and coming band with much more to give, I'm sure before the finish line.
David Adair & Stewart Brookman