It’s been a full ten minutes of chanting, flag waving and riotous noise when the lights raise and a lone figure clutching an acoustic guitar emerges stage-front from the Olympia mist. Simon Fowler, Ocean Colour Scene’s front man, takes a second to soak up the applause, before breaking into a timeless tune, pausing sporadically throughout the vocals so the crowd can take their turn.
Okay, so the extent to which Ocean Colour Scene milked their encore was almost ludicrous, and the -timeless tune’ – ‘Robin Hood’ – might just edge into recognisable territory outside of tonight’s assembled crowd, but for those inside the Olympia, OCS are bordering on heroes. Little has changed since their mid 90s heyday – in terms of either style or content – and that seemed to be entirely the point this evening, one hammered home by an encore that included early smashes ‘The Riverboat Song’ and ‘The Day We Caught The Train’.
Earlier, O Emperor had opened proceedings with their laid-back style of indie pop, producing a polished performance of slick, catchy tracks that sat well with the tone of the evening. There’s little doubt that the beer-swilling crowd is all about OCS, though. The band are welcomed like returning heroes, with a flag of native Midland’s football club Birmingham City flying in one corner of the crowd (Ocean Colour Scene certainly don’t seem to be fans, kicking the flag off stage when it landed at their feet), and the livelier moments of the gig punctuated by the noise of the Olympia’s upper levels stamping their feat along to the rhythm. It’s a nostalgic experience, with even recent singles like -Saturday’ sounding very much like the Ocean Colour Scene of old. Aside from sales figures – and perhaps the catchiest of edges to their music – little has changed since the Moseley Shoals/ Marchin’ Already days.
Unsurprisingly, OCS’s set is still littered with those early hits, with ‘Traveller’s Tune’, ‘Blown Away’, ‘Profit In Peace’ and ‘100 Mile High City’ all given an airing to vocal acclaim. ‘The Circle’ is a buoyant early warm up, while Little Bit Of Love throws in a touch of romance and a huge aside from OCS’ more typical sound. Even with the new tracks that crop up in the set there’s no doubt that most in the audience have been transported back to the days when Swindon Town were in the premier league, Oasis were still selling albums by the bucket load and John Bruton was still running the country. When a band do it this well, why the hell not?
Photos: Kieran Frost