They could have played Wembley Arena, you know. And at least that would have got everything over and done with in a night. In a heart-warming fit of generosity, however, [a]Ocean Colour Scene[/a] instead decided to play five nights at the Astoria, each with a different troupe of young pups in tow. But just as the list of supporting attractions reads like a London booking agent’s breakfast menu – tonight [a]Coldplay[/a], with The Marbles, JJ72, Mo’ Solid Gold and Toploader to come – so the only people actually likely to buy the notion of OCS as patrons of contemporary arts are those who believe these proceedings have anything to do with the real world outside.
This band are modern inasmuch as they use electricity. In every other respect, as is obvious from the moment the opening notes of ‘The Riverboat Song’ clang like lead-cladding around the soul and the hall erupts in a fit of Friday tea-time recognition, Ocean Colour Scene represent an exercise in nostalgia for an era the majority of people here are far too young to have experienced first-hand. You could argue that this makes them a very postmodern phenomenon, but let’s not get carried away with semantics. Replicants don’t do semantics. They just wanna party like it’s 1972.
So ‘Profit In Peace’ is a ten-more-pints-please facsimile of The Strawbs‘ ‘Part Of The Union’. Since these days the only people who have to go to war are the unfortunate citizens of fractured post-Cold War dictatorships, the woolly sentiments sit far enough removed from reality to ensure maximum response. Which is really what [a]Ocean Colour Scene[/a] gigs are all about. No-one comes here to think, just to get bevvied and howl the refrain to ‘The Day We Caught The Train’. True, they have to wait patiently through all the sensitive, acoustic gubbins like ‘Jane She Got Excavated’, but there’s always a pay-off, always a ‘Better Day’ around the next immaculately freeze-dried Steve Cradock guitar solo.
The only surprise is how unengaged the principals themselves seem, other than with each other. Damon Minchella and Oscar Harrison engage in a marathon wink-fest, while Cradock trades between-song quips with Mick Talbot, last seen performing similar duties with Gene and thus expanding his role as auxiliary member of Weller-indebted groups. Beyond Simon Fowler‘s regulation expressions of gratitude, it’s like watching a private party through a stage-sized window, with both band and audience sealed in their respective comfort zones.
Perhaps [a]Ocean Colour Scene[/a] now realise they simply no longer have to do that much beyond turning up and flaunting their skills, which being proud sorts they do as automatically as saying a little prayer each morning. It might constitute entertainment for some, but stumbling across this rock’n’roll [I]Jurassic Park [/I]all true children of the modern world will surely wish to look elsewhere for inspiration. Welcome to minimum R&B.