Ocean Colour Scene at The Olympia Theatre on December 4th 2013
Believe it or not it’s coming up to the twenty-five year mark. That’s twenty-five years that Simon Fowler, Steve Craddock and Oscar Harrison have been together as Ocean Colour Scene, Birmingham’s premier retro revivalists and a band that will never wear out their welcome in front of a Dublin crowd. That their appeal has lasted since their mid-nineties heyday may seem nothing short of miraculous to the outside observer. It’s certainly telling though, that their last two visits to The Olympia have seen the band play ‘Moseley Shoals’ and ‘Marchin’ Already’ in their entirety, released in ’96 and ’97 respectively. The 2011 outing of the former was quite a fun nostalgia trip, with a most definitely up-for-it, seasonally festive crowd showing the love in spades. This time around it’s the latter’s turn…a lesser album and, as it turns out, a lesser gig.
Ocean Colour Scene can do this in their sleep by now, and a plodding run-through of ‘Marchin’ Already’ limps along, even if there are a few moments notable only for their comedic value. At one point some chap comes out to stand and play Oscar Harrison’s ride cymbal for him. Oscar Harrison’s days of multi-tasking are over. Oscar Harrison has a man for that. There are even a few dodgy reggae-tinged moments, with Fowler coming out to the monitors to mime the trombone at one juncture. Then, conversely, there are moments notable for the fact that they’re quite impressive – Craddock’s bottleneck slide guitar, and his sporadic guitar-hero moments of wah and soul flourishing. As the album set draws to a close, it’s Dan Sealy on bass that seems to be enjoying it the most as he becomes more animated than he has been all night.
The chants of “OCS!” and the mass sing-alongs, particularly Better Day and Get Blown Away, belie the sluggish set, and the encore at least ups the momentum. The Circle is received like an old friend, the crowd taking over the “fare you well” backing lyric. New track Painting is just naff, but as Fowler fumbles at his lyric sheet and begins So Low it seems to be with the utmost sincerity. Maybe he even means it, and how could any performer resist the good vibes that this crowd are throwing towards the stage. Harrison sings the intro, Fowler joins, and the whole venue lights up for Profit In Peace. They’ve nailed the mindless protest song with this one; Craddock dispenses some crystalline notes, ever the under-rated player, before the band cut out to let the crowd sing acapella to their hearts content.
The spots cast circular motifs in light over the balcony as the crowd sway and sing along to It’s My Shadow, but any magic is lost by the appearance of yet another cod-reggae breakdown. The Riverboat Song pulls things back on track, and look…there’s Oscar Harrison’s man back out to play, standing behind him shaking maracas. Oscar Harrison has a man for that. Encore number three sees Fowler go it alone for Robin Hood. He’s alone onstage, maybe, but that’s all, as the crowd back him on every word. He slips into Oasis’ Live Forever, briefly, at the coda…this guy knows his audience. The Day We Caught The Train rounds off, with the balcony on its collective feet and a sea of hands in the air. Craddock solos, Oscar Harrison rattles a military motif, everyone sings…then it’s over. Oscar Harrison comes out from behind his kit and pretends to pull Fowler’s jocks down. It’s the most remarkable moment of the night.
Ocean Colour Scene Photo Gallery
Photos: Shaun Neary