Review + Photography by John McEvoy

A rainy Wednesday night saw the Ocean Colour Scene and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas provide Christmas cheer on their tour which is covering all points of the UK. A few people had wondered why a Motown legend was on the same bill as a band that were in the vanguard of the Britpop era of the late 90’s. But I have to say that it was a glorious clash of musical styles that worked a treat, and was well received by the large crowd in Leeds.

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Martha Reeves and the Vandellas took to the stage shortly after 7:30 and opener ‘Heat Wave’ immediately had the crowd dancing along. This trio, ably supported by a quality backing band have been around for almost 60 years, and they have become consummate performers, and Martha Reeves quickly engaged the audience with her between song patter and stories. Their version of the Marvin Gaye classic ‘What’s going on’ was a highlight for me along with ‘Jimmy Mack’ and they closed a barn storming set with ‘Dancing in the Street’ which has been covered by far too many people to list here. In short, as opening acts go, you would be hard pushed to improve on this, and let’s be honest, it’s not every day you get to see a Motown star!

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Martha Reeves and the Vandellas Set List:

Heat Wave
What’s going on
Nowhere to run
Jimmy Mack
I can’t help myself
Signed sealed delivered, I’m yours
Knock on wood
Dancing in the street

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Next up were headliner OCS, who were of course at the forefront of the Britpop explosion back in the late 90’s. Formed in Birmingham in 89 they achieved considerable success particularly after they supported Oasis in 95 and 96. It was their second and third albums ‘Moseley Shoals’ released in 96 and ‘Marchin’ Already’ released in 97 that saw them at their peak culminating in their own arena tour! Since then they have released 7 additional albums and toured building up a sizeable and loyal fanbase.

This Xmas tour was also on the back of their most recent 4 track ‘OCS’ EP and tonight show showcased a couple of these tunes which were well received. Their set opened with ‘Everything comes at the right time’ which features in my opinion one of the UK’s finest guitarists ‘Steve Cradock’ who was on blistering form throughout the whole set. He was incidentally supported on stage by his son who is clearly following in his dads footsteps. Worth mentioning here that original drummer Oscar Harrison was also joined on stage by his son who is clearly a gifted percussionist in his own right.

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Second up was their anthemic tune ‘The Riverboat Song’ featuring the distinctive vocal of Simon Fowler who despite not feeling 100% was still on fine form throughout the evening. New EP tracks the acoustic ‘Be with you’ and ‘Another bard may chant’ were a clear indication that OCS still know their way around a good tune and were well received by the audience.

Throughout the evening Steve Cradock showed why he should be regarded as being a guitarist at the top of his game, delivering scorching solos and power chords ably supported by Oscar Harrison (and son!) along with Ray Meade on bass.

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A slight technical hitch with the electric guitars saw Simon Fowler take the reins with an acoustic version of ‘Robin Hood’ which morphed into ‘Live Forever’ and was one of the many highlights of the evening. Power restored, OCS closed out the evening with the excellent ‘100 Mile City’ and what could be viewed as their definitive tune, ‘The day we caught the train’. This track always reminds me of the Beatles ‘I am the Walrus’ and that is intended as a compliment and not plagiarism! Just in case you were wondering….

This was the first time that I had the pleasure of seeing OCS, and along with the capacity crowd at the Leeds O2, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening in the presence of Motown royalty and Britpop pioneers who deliver great tunes and are still at the top of their game.

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Maybe a chalk and cheese mashup of musical styles is the way forward for gigs in the future? All I know is that it certainly worked tonight.

Ocean Colour Scene Set List:

Everything comes at the right time
The Riverboat song
Profit in peace
One for the road
The circle
Better day
Step by step
Besides yourself
I wanna stay alive with you
This day should last forever
Crazy lowdown ways
Be with you
Up on the downside
Jane she got excavated
You’ve got it bad
Get blown away
Travellers tune
100 mile high city
Robin Hood/Live forever
Another bard may chant
It’s a beautiful thing
Day we caught the train

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