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Ocean Colour Scene: Audience can't stop dancing as Simon Fowler and Oscar Harrison wow the Apex venue in Bury St Edmunds with acoustic gold



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I'd been pondering this concert for weeks.

That was until I, (feel free to sing along) sipped another rum and coke, told a dirty joke, and walked like Groucho, sucking on a number ten*.

I didn't quite roll on the floor, with cigarette burns walked in, but instead bought tickets thinking I could step through the door (of The Apex in Bury St Edmunds) like a troubador, while just an hour away, maybe even step into the sky, and feel it was was a brighter day.

Ocean Colour Scene at the Apex. Picture by Shawn Pearce
Ocean Colour Scene at the Apex. Picture by Shawn Pearce

And indeed it was.

It's hard to get those opening lyrics out of your head, isn't it? Or at least it is for me because I think I listened to them on repeat throughout the summer and winter of 1996, and into 1997. This was exactly five years and four months before the invention of the iPod, so quite an achievement.

The Day We Caught The Train, is a brilliant song. I still listen to it today.

It was released in June that year and was the third single from Ocean Colour Scene's Moseley Shoals album.

It reached number four on the UK Singles Chart.

It's still hugely popular today, along with many of the band's other now timeless classics, as the reception from a packed house on Monday, proved.

The evening kicked off with support act, singer-songwriter Si Connelly and his 'suitcase full of emotionally cracked songs', featuring passionate and intense acoustic guitar, emphasised by brutally raw and honest vocal gymnastics, and an improvised 'mouth trumpet'.

Ocean Colour Scene. Picture by Shawn Pearce
Ocean Colour Scene. Picture by Shawn Pearce

I believe he so impressed a Brit Award and a Grammy Award producer, they created his first album for free.

Ocean Colour Scene, known to fans as OCS, were on the 14th stop of their 25 leg tour, when they arrived in Bury on Monday.

The tour started in Scotland, and ends in Wales.

The gigs feature vocalist Simon Fowler, and Oscar Harrison playing piano, bass and percussion, for an acoustic set of some of their biggest hits and anthems, and also lesser known songs.

Legendary guitarist Steve Cradock, is away on other business.

Formed more than three decades ago, OCS lit up the UK in the '90s with three top 5 albums – 1996’s Moseley Shoals, 1997’s Marchin’ Already and 1999’s One From The Modern.

The band achieved 17 top 40 singles, including a run of nine successive top 20 singles and a mantelpiece full of awards.

In Bury, and in impressive choral harmony, the audience break into song immediately for the first song, an acoustic rendition of So Low, and rise from their seats for the second, to dance to Travellers Tune.

The singing was so magical, ethereal even, I even asked a friend if it was a recording.

It also seemed to take Simon Fowler quite by surprise, too, declaring Bury St Edmunds the 'Rock and Roll Hub' of Suffolk, and later to decide, this 'was his favourite audience yet'; despite being 'frightened' to come somewhere 'so posh'.

The atmosphere was set early for an uplifting and entertaining show, in an intimate setting, and perfectly lit in red, white and blue, with an instant rapport between artist and audience, verging on the symbiotic.

I always thought a little unfair that Ocean Colour Scene were tagged with the Britpop label, and often lauded as one of the founders, along side Oasis and Blur.

They were more often tagged as a third runner when, to me, they were actually streets ahead with a myriad of influences, with an underlying tenor of rhythm and blues, touches of Northern soul, and folk.

Ocean Colour Scene appeared at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds on Monday
Ocean Colour Scene appeared at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds on Monday

When the Modfather himself, Paul Weller, gave the band his backing, the rest of course is history.

As did Chris Evans when he used the intro to their rousing Riverboat Song as a musical theme in his 90s Show, TFI Friday.

The acoustic evening at the Apex, gave the band the chance to completely shed any of the labels, and instead offer up an honest and thrilling reprisals, achingly beautiful vocals (matured with age), subtle harmonies and mellow tones, interspersed with some rampant acoustic rock.

It seemed the audience felt that way too with a sometimes touching interaction with the two stars on stage, including cries of: We love you Oscar, and you're not bad Foxy (Fowler's nickname), either.

The audience sang along in unison with a number of classics including The Circle, and Hundred Mile High City.

A stirring rendition of No Profit in Peace, written about Gulf War, and from the album, One From The Modern, also caught the imagination in both its timeless simplicity and poignancy in today's world and the conflict in Ukraine.

Robin Hood also proved gently moving.

And more than just a musical medley, the songs were intertwined with tales from the '90s including memories of a night out with Snoop Doggy Dog, what Noel Gallagher said and did when OCS knocked them from Number One.

There were also tales of playing pool with Primal Scream, on one leg, a bust up with their record label in LA, involving knives table cloths and some frightened girls, and a night out in Coventry, with 'Jesus Christ'.

The 1990s were heady times, especially for those at the forefront of the Britpop movement, in a culture inspired by Cool Britannia, and Lad mags, no less.

The highlight moment came however during the encore, and what turned out to be the last song, after a charming, soulful evening.

A simple E minor chord, strummed and left hanging on an acoustic guitar, was enough to inspire everyone to rise, yet again, in almost gospel-like fashion, to start dancing, singing, and keeping the faith - to the iconic anthem: The Day We Caught the Train.

But then, after a dreadful last two years: when you feel things are getting wild, don't you need days like these?

* Some of the lines from The Day We Caught The Train