Birmingham five-piece Ocean Colour Scene were playing the first night of their Marchin Already UK tour, and a big crowd turned out expecting to hear plenty of hits and classic album tracks, and they weren’t disappointed.
This tour is a celebration of the band’s 1997 number one album, Marchin Already, which was the follow up to their breakthrough Brit-pop LP Moseley Shoals from two years previous.
The mid-to-late 90s was a time when OCS were at the peak of their creative and commercial powers, and it was a treat in the first half of the show at Bedford to hear the Marchin Already album played in its entirety (well, almost - the instrumental workout All Up was left out, but we’ll let that go).
In this day and age of the digital download and streaming, the thought of sitting down, putting an album on and listening to it from start to finish will be a completely alien concept to most people, say, under 30.
But I, thankfully, grew up in an era when the album was king, and I can still remember going to the shop (Spinadisc), buying a copy of Marchin Already and playing it the whole way through. And then doing it again, And again. I loved it, and still do.
Every song got into my psyche, every tune got into my mind and has stayed there - and it was great to hear the likes of 100 Mile High City, the fantastic Travellers Tune (one of my all-time favourite songs), the anthemic Better Day and It’s a Beautiful Thing, and the simple, but almost perfect, Foxy’s Folk Faced.
For anybody who hasn’t seen OCS play live, they are an excellent band, but there are probably three main star elements.
The first is the frontman, Simon Fowler, who may not be the best orator when talking to the crowd in between tracks, indeed he is a bit of a mumbler, but when he sings he gets his message across loud, clear, and in his own distinctive style.
The second star element is lead guitarist Cradock, who has stayed loyal to OCS despite his long association with Paul Weller, and now a blossoming solo career (he has just released his third album), and clearly loves playing with the band.
I have seen Cradock play many times, but usually from a bit of a distance, but I braved standing at the front for the Bedford gig (for as long as my ears could take it at least!) and it was a pleasure to be stood no more than five or six yards from him. He is such a fantastic guitarist, reeling off riff after riff, and lick after lick, as if it is the most natural thing in the world.
It was a pleasure to watch a master at work - even if my ears are bleeding this morning!
And the third star element of OCS, and possibly the most important, is the songs - and OCS have got a lot of very, very good ones.
Once they had played Marchin Already - including a first live airing for album track Tele He’s Not Talking - the band returned for a second half, when they played some oldies (The Circle, Profit In Peace, The Riverboat Song) and some newies from this year’s LP Painting (yes, they are still making records, 24 years after forming - and pretty good ones too), and it was clear from the reaction of the crowd, that some of those songs made up some of the soundtrack of their lives.
Fowler returned for a solo encore of live favourite Robin Hood, before the whole band returned to finish the gig off with perhaps their best known song, the superb The Day We Caught The Train - and I am sure every member of the 1,000-strong crowd sang along!
It was a great way to wrap up the 23-track gig, and although OCS may not be making number one albums, or be being played all over the radio airwaves as they were in their pomp - this gig proves they are still a class act.
And anybody who goes to watch them live on this tour, or any time in the future, won’t be disappointed.”
Ocean Colour Scene, Bedford Corn Exchange, Tuesday, November 26
Setlist - Part one: Hundred Mile High City, Better Day, Travellers Tune, Big Star, Debris Road, Besides Yourself, Get Blown Away, Tele He’s Not Talking, Foxy’s Folk Faced, Spark And Cindy, Half A Dream Away, It’s A Beautiful Thing.
Part two: The Riverboat Song, Painting, So Low, Profit in Peace, Weekend, This Day Should Last Forever, It’s My Shadow, One For The Road, The Circle.
Encore: Robin Hood, The Day We Caught The Train