Ocean Colour Scene (Acoustic Set) - Parr Hall, Warrington 15.04.08

Obviously, acoustic sets tend to test vocal aspect of a band’s repertoire to the limit. If this point has been taken on board by the outfit wishing to woo their faithful with intimacy and heart?  Then not only does their classic material retain its spark, but it can also take on a whole new lease of life and give a completely different slant their work, causing back-catalogue sales to soar. It’s questionable as to whether or not this would be a good thing for the Simon Fowler led mods of Ocean Colour Scene. That is given their decision to walk out on their major label and go all independent on us. Who, exactly will profit from these back-catalogue sales is not clear in this case?

Through solo opener ‘Robin Hood’, Fowler shows a distant apathy, through the low-key vocals, rubbing guitar stride and, oblivious to the dangers of royalty payments wrangling with their old label, he sets off on a nostalgic stroll. No Cracker (remember them?) style tug-of-war over song profits with the label here it seems, or if there is to be one tonight they couldn’t given a Friar Tuck about it. On reflection, a relatively safe starter has been chosen, given the fact that any frailties in the vocal projection aren’t likely to be detected due to the earthy and laid back nature of the tune.

Signs are already starting to appear, through crowd cheers, chants and seat vacating that the usual courtesies of this sort of laidback evening will be readily discarded.  Something that is confirmed when the remaining musos saunter into view and rowdy, beer fuelled applause fills the air. A three guitar and dual percussion push, retains the adventuring boldness needed to give ‘The Riverboat Song’, its wandering life. A gravelly foundation is unveiled in Fowler’s lead vocals and doubts start to creep in, regarding whether or not all the changes that his range has undergone through the varying releases and heavy tours are starting to take their toll? These fears are soon coaxed out of even the most cynical doubter’s mind, as the supple keyboard toeing title track from 2001’s ‘Mechanical Wonder’ album, continues to bear out the influence of Paul Weller on the band. This is something that Fowler refers to several times throughout the evening.

It almost seems too obvious to even need to point out the fact that even in an acoustic setting, Steve Craddock’s guitar mastery provides a solid foundation for the band to wander off from. Be it the reflecting country direction of ‘This Day Should Last Forever’, or the driving rock push of the war decrying ‘Profit In Peace’, Craddock is the control centre of the tempo builds and rhythmic lunging. A rambling and hearty run through ‘Better Day’ provides for a school trip style sing-along and a little surprisingly, it responds well to this low-key setting.  Saving ‘Travellers Tune’ and a back-to-basics glide through ‘The Day We Caught The Train’, delivering version akin to that which appeared on the ‘B Sides, Seasides and Free Rides’ album. This bears out readily the ability O.C.S. to put effort, heart and rhythm into every single song they create. There is more than enough from their actions both on and off stage to suggest that they still have what it takes to plough forward with their rugged life commentating.

Dave Adair

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