Review: Sports Team – Ulster Sports Club, Belfast

20th November 2021: Continuing their ‘Deep Down Happy’ tour, Sports Team celebrated the 2020 album of the same name that proved that UK guitar music could still compete with pop music. This show was the most intimate venue of the tour and that was seen as a change of pace for the band but still kept the energy they are so known for.

Northern Irish artist Lemonade Shoelace dropped in for support due to tour support Courting dropping out last second. The band was without their bassist with guitarist Ben stepping in with this well polished band still sounding so strong. Coming fresh from winning the Vans’ Musicians Wanted campaign and with a support slot with Yungblud on the horizon, this hometown act proved the perfect sound and vibe to get the crowd ready. Single ‘Autopilot Paradise’ giving a Tame Impala vibe sounded immense alongside my own personal favourite ‘Spooky Jammers (How to Fly)’ which worked perfectly to the close of their set.

Up next, Cambridge formed six piece Sports Team, Alex Rice as a frontman showing he is nothing dissimilar to David Byrne of Talking Heads whilst the rest of the band slide into nothing short of greatness. Previously being called out by media outlets for being entitled, I would argue this is the opposite with their lyrics filled with ideas of drinking, fishing and driving along the M5.

With a set filled with hits from the bands debut alongside some EP hits and newer tracks, this band made the upstairs room of the Ulster Sports Club feel a much larger venue. ‘Here It Comes Again’ acted as the perfect opener to a set going from 0-90. You wouldn’t tell this was the band’s third night in a row performing following the madness of fan proposals and a night in Lisbon the night before.

The set was a consistent build that had the intimate crowd throwing themselves on top of the band with frontman Alex being seemingly mesmerised by the crowd. The transition between fan favourite ‘M5’ and slower paced ‘Long Hot Summer’ worked perfectly to give some breathing room. Recent single ‘Happy (God’s Own Country)’ proved a hit whilst unreleased track ‘The Game‘ featured a chorus that had the crowd singing by the end.

In this environment interactions between crowd and band were persistent, especially during the last three tracks. ‘Here’s the Thing,’ ‘Kutcher’ and ‘Stanton‘ had the crowd moving around this small room, people jumping on shoulders holding the roof of this small venue. The band walked off to a mainly crowd sang rendition of Robbie Williams ‘Angels‘ with Alex remaining behind jumping into the crowd and crowd surfing to this.

Overall, this gig although a change in size for Sports Team was one that proved the band should come back to Belfast soon and proved, perhaps, British guitar music is not dead. Dylan McAllister

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