Beacons of the early 2000s popular gentle-indie-rock genre, Athlete are probably most famous for the tear-jerking Wires, a 2005 single about a premature baby, and a song that leant great momentum to the sales of their early albums. This is the song they close tonight’s show at the Junction, Cambridge, with – the first night of a five-date, 10 year anniversary tour celebrating the release of their debut album, Vehicles and Animals. This is the longest justification for a tour I have ever encountered.
The first of the two support acts, Sivu (sieve-ooh rather than sea-view, apparently) stands alone with his guitar and quirky facial expressions. His songs are compelling and he ends with the glittering Better Man Than He. Next up, Eliza and the Bear enter and I’m still waiting for Eliza to appear when the boys begin playing. There’s no reinvention of indie to be found here, just by the book joyful exuberance and hilariously contrasting on-stage personalities.
As Athlete don’t make music together anymore (or just at the moment?) this little tour is a rare opportunity for old fans to bellow out the hits in a live setting. And bellow they do, as the band play through the whole of the debut album in tracklisted order.
Vehicles and Animals is quite literally a long player, so I’m thankful for the upbeat El Salvador, Shake Those Windows and You Got the Style which carry us through the blander corners of the album. Audience members seize opportunities to tease the band for being out of shape while they catch their breath and re-tune and there’s a moment with an instrument I cannot name breaking that lends to the feeling of this tour being a slightly shambolic but mutually beneficial exercise. The band get to play together and see their fans, while the fans get a more up-close feel than would have been possible in the arenas of the glory days. Despite my initial cynicism about the idea of a 10-year-anniversary-of-release-of-debut-album tour, I leave with a heart warmed by the longevity of the relationship between Athlete and their fans.