Gig Review by David Stone with Photography by Jessica Stone

A lot can change in ten years, but Scouting for Girls still hold up as one of the hottest pop-rock acts around. The Londoners returned to a sold-out Oxford O2 Academy to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their self-titled debut album and play – in their own words – whatever they want!

Scouting For Girls

The main room at Oxford’s O2 Academy has a really interesting feel to it. You walk in near the back of the room and there’s a low ceiling which stretches almost to the barrier, giving the stage an almost cinematic wide-screen effect.

As we arrived, Ben McKelvey had just taken to the stage and there, with an acoustic guitar in hand and a crowd of lively fans already stacked against the barriers, he looked every bit like he could’ve been tonight’s main feature.

McKelvey’s a composed performer and a talkative soul, spinning yarns to weave together his acoustic pop offerings, all the while dedicating himself to getting the crowd warmed up for the headliners.

Scouting For Girls

Highlights of the set included a fun cover of the legendary Johnny Cash singalong ‘Ring of Fire’ off the back of an enthusiastic chant of ‘HEY, HO. LET’S GO!’ and a solid rendition of ‘Stay Young’. The performance felt like a perfect match for the headline act, so it’s well worth checking Ben out if you’re a SFG fan.

A short intermission, and then it was party time! Making their entrance to the Rocky theme song, Scouting For Girls wasted no time in digging into their hits. ‘Heartbeat’ followed ‘Holiday’ as a leading one-two, before the band turned the attention back onto the crowd. Frontman Roy Stride broke out a selfie stick to introduce ‘Famous’, using it to film the sellout crowd as they danced and cheered their way through the song.

Scouting For Girls

Scouting For Girls

Having a frontman that covers keyboard/piano can often be limiting to a band’s stage presence, but it’s touches like that which make all the difference in SFG’s presentation. Whilst the singer made sure to escape his keys whenever possible to engage with the fans, the rest of the band made their presence felt too.

Crowd participation quickly became a cornerstone of the set, with the Oxford collective being named tonight’s fifth band member. For an act with the catchy lyrical hooks found in tracks like ‘She’s so Lovely’, ‘I wish I was James Bond’ and ‘Elvis Ain’t Dead’ that’s no surprise, but the sing-along stepped up a notch when that last track turned into a impromptu rendition of Elvis’ own ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’.

Scouting For Girls

Scouting For Girls

A few minutes later, the entire room was channelling Bon Jovi as the London lads led a powerful cover of ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’. Playing what they want indeed!

It’s a choice that extended to their own song selections, too – where most bands celebrate an anniversary tour by playing the entire album, Scouting For Girls chose to leave a few tracks by the wayside to make room for a couple of newer numbers.

The lead single on their old-meets-new ‘Ten + Ten’ album ‘Dancing in the Daylight’ closed the main set. It’s another quintessential SFG song – a bouncy pop track with an optimistic tone that’ll you’ll be casually singing to yourself for days.

Scouting For Girls

Scouting For Girls

The encore brought some festive fun in the shape of ‘Christmas in the Air (Tonight)’, before wrapping up with ‘She’s so Lovely’ – a track which even after a decade is still their most popular hit.

Whether you’re a die-hard fan or just know a couple of their biggest hits, Scouting for Girls deliver a really fun show with a few laughs and a power-pop soundtrack that’ll keep you engaged and  entertained throughout.

SETLIST:
Holiday
Heartbeat // Red stage
Famous  // Selfie stick
Love How it Hurts
It’s not About You
I Wish I Was James Bond
Michaela Strachan
Bad Superman  // Clark Kent glasses
Posh Girls
Millionaire
The Airplane Song
Elvis Ain’t Dead x Can’t Help Falling in Love (Elvis Presley Cover)
This Ain’t a Love Song
Livin’ on a Prayer (Bowie cover)  // Singalong
Keep On Walking
Dancing In the Daylight
1 + 1
Christmas in the Air (Tonight)
She’s So Lovely

Scouting For Girls

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