Pop review

Ocean Colour Scene
St George's Hall, Bradford
**

Ocean Colour Scene stroll on stage in an assortment of greyish clothes and make the most polite sound that has ever been produced by a wall of Marshall amplifiers. It's surprisingly pleasant to hear tunes such as The Circle and Better Day. After all, they're well-written pop songs and sung well. Something, however, is jarring and it's hard to figure out what.

Perhaps it is the large, druggy projection that swirls hypnotically across the back of the stage. This is presumably ironic, given that Ocean Colour Scene are the least psychedelic band to emerge from the Midlands since the Electric Light Orchestra. Or perhaps it's the rabid, inflamed passion of the crowd, who all seem to think they're watching the Clash circa 1977. Maybe it's a combination of both.

Either way, the nice-looking chaps on stage seem pleased by the rock'n'roll atmosphere they are inexplicably generating, and singer Simon Fowler even goes so far as to lift a can of lager at us and mumble something into the microphone.

The roars of approval grow more and more frenzied as the music becomes more and more innocuous. The moddish white soul of In My Field tries to evoke the Who but quickly dissolves into tedious repetition, any potential energy stifled by an endlessly recurring guitar noodle and the four-square drumming of Oscar Harrison. Profit in Peace gets the crowd waving their lighters in the air, but while the recorded version had a bit of subtlety, here it's hammered into the ground with almost grim determination.

The band constantly evoke the sound of other artists while always managing to leave out something vital. So we get Thin Lizzy without the testosterone, the Jam without the urban anger, Sheryl Crow without Sheryl Crow. But the crowd simply do not care. Without doing anything extraordinary, this very average band have managed to inspire love, devotion and the belief that they are doing something exciting. Perhaps, in this respect, they are strangely brilliant after all.

At the Royal Centre, Nottingham (0115-989 5555), tomorrow, then touring.

Contributor

James Griffiths

The GuardianTramp

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