The Oyster Band, which started life back in the 1970s as the Oyster Ceilidh Band, have won numerous folk awards over the years, and developed a gritty folk-rock fusion more akin to The Levellers than Fairport Convention. It is a grit they have turned into shining pearls on numerous occasions.
But the first set here referenced a different sort of precious gem, showcasing music from the recently released Diamonds On The Water – the band’s first album of new material for seven years.
A number of the new songs were inspired by journeys. All well crafted, they more than held their own against the old favourites.
Their traditional folk root sound was to the fore in their impressive version of The Morpeth Rant.
However, over the long two-set concert it was rock rhythms that dominated, with lead vocalist John Jones’s approach more stadium-orientated than folk ballad style.
Following the departure of the long-standing bass/cello of Ray “Chopper” Cooper, the Oysters have added a backing vocalist, cellist and bass player.
The arrangements, as you might expect, are different although the core sound has survived. It was great to hear The Oxford Girl again and the concert ended with an unplugged rendition of Put Out The Lights.
Polished, vibrant and passionate, they are playing Stockton’s Arc on Saturday (Tickets: 01642 525199). Highly recommended.