‘Sips another rum and coke…’
The Leadmill is undoubtedly Sheffield’s most iconic venue. It is heartening then to see the hallowed club branching out into other areas of the city. A blazing hot weekend in August has seen the venue host a trio of massive outdoor gigs at the Don Valley Bowl, just outside of the city centre. I arrived on the Sunday for the third of these shows with a song in my heart and and a few extra pounds round my waist. It has been a summer of indulgence…
Local band Sheafs kick things off and they make an almighty racket. 3.30pm is a stinking slot for any band but they make the most of it with a confident and entertaining performance. It’s nice to see a new band making an effort with the stage set up and crowd participation and by the time they play their new single and best song This Is Not A Protest, they have won the audience over. And by won them over I mean that the singer waded into the crowd and commanded people to hold up signs baring the name of the song like a bossy primary school teacher. It worked for me though.
Dodgy are a band that I am yet to tick off my ever expanding list of Britpop acts that I have seen live. This unhealthy obsession stems from the fact that, as a child of the ’90s, almost every artists from that era holds some kind of emotional attachment for me. I always remember Dodgy playing in the car on a trip to Bridlington beach with my Dad for example. That song was Good Enough and it sounds suitably brilliant here. Dodgy were always slightly underrated first time round and while literally nobody is interested in hearing any of their new material, songs like In A Room and particularly If You’re Thinking of Me still sound great. Frontman Nigel Clark clearly still believes in the material and his voice is the same as it ever was.
On a bill mostly made up of Britpop bands, The Magic Numbers are the odd ones out what with being an American rock group, but actually their rootsy guitar sound is not a million miles away from either the Coral or Ocean Colour Scene.
One criticism I often have of live music is that you can’t hear what the singer is saying (because apparently I have already become an old man shouting at clouds) but Romeo Stodart comes across loud and clear and the bands Fleetwood Mac shtick goes down on a treat. The whole set is tight but there is a nagging feeling that the pair of siblings that make up the Magic Numbers are having way more fun than anyone else. Classics such as Forever Lost and Love is a Game sound massive however, and Love Me Like You provides the first transcendent moment of the afternoon as band and audience are in symbiosis.
Mark Morriss of The Bluetones is a man who is never afraid to poke fun at himself and he often points out the ailing chart position of many of the band’s ‘hit’ singles during his live performances. Having said that, the Hounslow heroes have a fair few festival friendly songs in their arsenal. ‘After Hours’ is a jaunty drinking anthem, Marblehead Johnson stands as one of Britpop’s great ‘lost’ singles and Slight Return is quite simply a classic. At one point Morriss jokes ‘you’ve got some great bands on this bill today… and Dodgy’ to a gale of laughter from the crowd. It is this idea of being Britpop survivors that brings the audience and the artists together and this makes Don Valley Bowl feel like a celebration rather than the last gasps of a moribund movement. By the time the band close with If, there isn’t a punter yet to be converted to the church of Mark Morriss and the Bluetones. Another success.
For a review of a Mark Morriss solo show, click here.
It’s funny how bands will drift in and out of your life. When I was 14 I once let my mate kick me in the bollocks for £20. With that money I bought the eponymous debut album of The Coral and was instantly smitten. I also loved the follow up Magic and Medicine but somehow they lost me after that. They make for the perfect warm up act here however. Old tracks such as In The Morning and Bill McCai sound as vital as ever but what is most arresting is how good the new material sounds. It is easy to see why tracks such as Stormbreaker and Sweet Release are receiving rave reviews, the Liverpool band sound revitalised and ready for war. When it comes to closing out the set however the band go back to their roots. Dreaming of You is a monster of a song and James Skelly and co give it everything. The bass line. The solo. Skelly’s cowboy hat. In tandem, it all seems perfect.
And so to the main event. Ocean Colour Scene have been around forever and while they haven’t released anything new since 2013, they have an intimidating back catalogue that ensures that they have earned a headline slot on a bill as prestigious as this one. You forget just how many great songs they have, and as they rattle off Profit in Peace, The Circle and July, the rowdy Sheffield audience is with them every step of the way.
It would be remiss of me to review Ocean Colour Scene without mentioning guitarist Steve Cradock. As with peers Johnny Greenwood, Graham Coxon and Bernard Butler, Craddock is vital to the success of his band. There simply is no OCS without Steve Cradock. He is the driving force and his playing is spellbinding whether he is wringing out his guitar on Get Blown Away or hammering out the unmistakable riff of the Riverboat Song.
The band mostly eschew their newer material in favour of the songs that made them so beloved in the first place and this makes for a greatest hits set that will live long in the memory. The Circle is as celebratory as ever, You’ve Got It Bad features a stop/start riff that Paul Weller would be proud of and an unstoppable run through of Hundred Mile High City closes out the set.
The encore sees vocalist Simon Fowler deliver a salient acoustic rendering of the forlorn ballad Robin Hood before the band return for a genuinely touching rendition of It’s A Beautiful Thing. After struggling all evening with a cough, Fowler finally succumbs during the last verse of the last song, The Day We Caught The Train. Luckily, he has a few thousand backing singers who know every word. Cries of ‘whoooa la la’ echo long into the balmy Sheffield night as the day we caught the train becomes the day we saw an unforgettable gig. Ocean Colour Scene… Sheffield loves you.
For a review of Ocean Colour Scene playing at Doncaster Racecourse, click here.