‘I see trouble, up ahead…’

Call me a pedant but I have something of an obsession when it comes to Britpop. I have a checklist of all the bands from the 90s that first made me fall in love with music and it is my life’s work to try and see them all live at some point. Ocean Colour Scene are a band that didn’t just define my childhood but also the 90s in general. The riff to ‘The Riverboat Song’ is as quintessentially 90s as Sonic the Hedgehog or Saved by the Bell. It was fitting then that the band used that very riff to kick off their unconventional gig at the Doncaster Racecourse…

Playing a racecourse is a tough gig. The crowd are miles away from the stage, they mostly haven’t come to see the music and a races crowd is perhaps more likely to contain scoundrels and trouble makers. Ocean Colour Scene have been doing this for over twenty years now however and they never seemed fazed. ‘The Riverboat Songs’ kicks things off and any fears that the venue will limit the bands performance are firmly allayed.

The band wisely begin with something of a hit parade actually with a storming ‘You’ve Got It Bad’ followed by an uplifting performance of ‘Profit in Peace’. Some Ocean Colour Scene songs have aged better than others but ‘The Circle’ still sounds as vital as ever and is greeted with more enthusiasm than anything else they have previously played.

Frontman Simon Fowler keeps on stage patter to a minimum and prefers the music to do the talking but he does comment “this ones about the band” before launching into an unstoppable rendition of ‘Better Days’. Fowler gives a brief band introduction before ‘So Low’ but there is one man who needs no such introduction. Steve Cradock is one of the most talented guitarists of his generation and it is life affirming to see him attack his instrument with such gusto after so many years. Drummer Oscar Harrison leads the band from the back with a fury that matches Fowlers impassioned vocals. It is clear why this band remain so loved.

OCS guitarist Steve Cradock. Photo © Andrew Kelly

An unexpected but welcome cover of The Beatles classic ‘Daytripper’ goes down a storm after a day at the races but it is ‘Get Blown Away’ that inspires the evenings best performance. The track from the 1997 album Marchin’ Already has always been the bands most underrated song and judging by the way they tear through it here, they certainly echo that sentiment. The rock ‘n’ roll stomp of ‘Travellers Tune’ and a chaotic run through of ‘Hundred Mile High City’ close out the first part of the set.

Simon Fowler returns to the stage for a solo acoustic version of ‘Robin Hood’ before the rest of OCS return for an obligatory run through of ‘The Day We Caught The Train’. The latter is a song I mostly skip now as I have heard it so many times but there is no denying it’s power as a live spectacle. Everyone in the crowd knows the words and it feels like the perfect way to end a barnstorming set. You know a song is a classic when even the security guys are singing along…