Forgive me, but you’re in for some misty eyed, unapologetic nostalgia. In fairness, if you’ve decided to read a review of three bands whose roots lie in the 90s, you’re probably after exactly that.
Twenty years ago, OCS released ‘Moseley Shoals’, Shed Seven‘s ‘A Maximum High’ came out, and The Bluetones debut record ‘Expecting to Fly’ was number flippin’ one in the hit parade. TWENTY YEARS AGO. Time has been kind to us all and stood on the sloping square behind the opulence of Leeds Town Hall, the lithe, youthful forty-somethings (Mark Morriss and Paul Banks haven’t aged a day) add the fuel to the time machine and it’s 1996. And heaven knows we need to remember the good times. Not least harking back to when our national football team were half decent, the political landscape looked positive and there was a modicum of peace in the world.
The Bluetones begin the reminiscing, crashing straight into ‘Cut Some Rug’, armed with Mr Morriss’s sharp wit and well-honed stage patter, the ever increasing precipitation falls unnoticed on the faces of newly regressed teenagers with laughter lines aplenty. If there’s a band that you need to start a party and mass singalongs, you won’t go far wrong with the boys from Hounslow, their southern origins not affecting the crowd’s affection. When your arsenal includes ‘Marblehead Johnson’, ‘Bluetonic’, ‘If’ and erstwhile radio classic ‘Slight Return’, even the most ardent Ocean Colour Scene fan is putty in their hands.
The night before, the boys from up the road in York, Shed Seven, invited a clearly sozzled Ricky Wilson, a native Leodensian and star of TV’s load of bobbins The Voice, to play the chart bothering ‘I Predict a Riot’ from back when his part time job fronting the Kaiser Chiefs used to be more permanent. No such luck tonight, instead unfortunately we had the misfortune of Rick Witter and the boys being uninterrupted by buffoons and instead they hammered through a back catalogue of solid gold indie anthems, without risk of serious injury.
‘She Left Me On Friday’ began the hour of virtually non-stop pissed-up participation, Witter even commented on the well-oiled crowd despite it being a Sunday evening. ‘Devil In Your Shoes’ may not have been a universal favourite, but the slightly obscure single from 1998’s ‘Let It Ride’ is a brass-soaked belter.
Chris Helme of The Seahorses, John Squire’s project post-Stone Roses collapse, did join them again on ‘High Hopes’, before a final run in of high-octane, rabble rousing, scream-it-at-the-top-of-your-lungs tunes including ‘Going For Gold’, ‘Disco Down’, ‘Getting Better’ and a barnstorming ‘On Standby’, ended with the poignant ‘Chasing Rainbows’, which seemed to beckon floods of tears. An evocative song that promotes the nostalgia we’re there for, our youth, our past, our losses.
Ocean Colour Scene are the elder statesmen. The celebration is for their second record’s 20th birthday, but they started back in 1989 taking their time to hit their zenith. As advertised, the whole of their magnum opus, ‘Moseley Shoals’ was played chronologically with barely a pause for breath, but the set was kicked off with a staple from their set in the 90s, a cover by a band from Liverpool that you may have come across called The Beatles. ‘Day Tripper’. A riff so tight you’d have thought Steve Craddock had written it himself, unless you had been living in a cave for the majority of the last 50 years.
It’s a strange sensation watching a band perform a record from start to finish as there are the inevitable drawbacks. Whilst any self-respecting music fan will listen to ‘Moseley Shoals’ in its entirety without touching the skip button, it could be argued some of it doesn’t suit the stage, or at least the album track order doesn’t lend itself to a live setlist. Especially when you have ‘The Riverboat Song’ followed immediately by ‘The Day We Caught The Train’, two of the biggest indie anthems from the 90s you’re likely to find, right at the beginning of the set. It’s still a stunning collection of songs, but just occasionally it needs the jolt of a classic single to bring an extra spark. Something they can do at the end of the set by unleashing ‘Travellers Tune’, ‘Better Day’ and ‘Hundred Mile High City’.
The first part of the set was bookended by another tear jerker, ‘Robin Hood’, a lament to substances and narcotics and how they seemed a good idea at the time. Here, it’s another reminder of who we were, where we were, and what happened to us and the people we loved, and maybe lost in different ways.
As the last strains of the last note rang out across the square and we made our way into the night and the Leeds side streets that we slip down, people caught each other’s eyes, only for a second, but complete strangers shared a moment of recognition and then the time machine sucked us back into 2016. The cold, hard real world that right now seems terrifying, but back then was limitless and exciting. And for a few hours it was again.