Ocean Colour Scene live review by Rob Johnson

It is a testament to Ocean Colour Scene’s back catalogue that even though they haven’t released any new music since 2013, they are still selling out large venues and playing big festival stages. Some bands struggle with their legacy and find themselves torn between honouring their old material and trying to get long-time fans on board with a new music direction. Simon Fowler (vocals and guitar), Steve Cradock (lead guitar), Oscar Harrison (drums) and Raymond Meade (bass) have no such conflict.

The set they deliver at the Sheffield Octagon tonight features only one song from outside of their ‘90s heyday (‘This Day Should Last Forever’) with the rest of the set being mined from their three biggest albums Moseley Shoals, Marchin’ Already and One from the Modern. Based on the fact that the crowd are made up of old men in designer jackets with mod haircuts (including myself, sadly), this trip down memory lane is clearly what everyone is here for.

The poignant and poetic tones of ‘Fairytale of New York’ usher the band on to the stage before Fowler and co. burst into life with ‘One for the Road’. Cradock’s guitar crunches and soars throughout the Sheffield Octagon for ‘July’ before ‘The Circle’ sees the rowdy crowd joining in on backing vocals. It’s a joyous moment that speaks to the unity that this band inspire and the reciprocal relationship they share with their rabid fanbase.

‘Travellers Tune’ was one of the first singles I ever bought (on cassette, no less) and yet it still sounds insistent and exciting here, all honky tonk piano and pounding drums. ‘Jane She Got Excavated’ serves as a reminder of how lovely this band can be when they take it down a notch before the first part of the set concludes with ‘Get Blown Away’, ‘The Riverboat Song’ and a triumphant and defiant ‘Hundred Mile High City’. Hearing these three songs together demonstrates Cradock’s innate ability to write iconic guitar riffs that dig their way into your brain and set up camp for weeks afterwards. The crowd goes wild.

Fowler returns to the stage to perform a solo acoustic version of ‘Robin Hood’ – the audience sing back every word – before ‘Profit in Peace’ also inspires a massive singalong. It’s a sad fact of life that the song is more relevant now than ever. Of course, ‘The Day We Caught the Train’ closes things out and it’s one of those special songs that is bigger than any band, any artist. It’s part of the public consciousness now. Part of the pop culture ether. It feels like a moment.

Ocean Colour Scene may be happy to look backwards but if anything they have only gotten better with age. Now, where’s my bucket hat and what time is TFI Friday on?

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