We Are The Ocean suffered a more disruptive 2012 than most, beginning the year on a high from a number of highly acclaimed festival performances (indeed, pushing at the “best band of Reading/Leeds” accolade in 2011) and followed by the departure of Dan Brown shortly before a well-publicised unfortunate slot at last year’s Download Festival. Few would have anticipated the exuberant comeback with the career defining ‘Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow’, leaving the recently promoted frontman Liam Cromby to continue the legacy left in Brown’s wake.

Before them though, are Straight Lines with a set taken largely from recent album ‘Freaks Like Us’ that further demonstrates the band’s ability to perform their infectious melodies with Tom Jenkins’ rougher vocal twists than those on recorded material, and also a perfectly over-the-top performance from Scotland-via-Florida based Yahsin that makes them the tightest band on tonight’s bill – We Are The Ocean are left fighting against their heritage.

Nowadays the band verge on the likes of The Gaslight Anthem or, as Cromby loses the electric guitar in place of an acoustic performance of ‘Chin Up, Son’, hints of Dallas Green’s notable City and Colour. Even the moments previously filled with Brown’s screams on ‘Confessions’ are substituted by an altogether more soulful voice; pitch perfect for the majority of the time and far removed from what came before.

Yet a glimpse at the audience would suggest an entirely different band – instead they throw themselves into each other with a reckless tendency that far outweighs the norm for any moshpit. There is an unshakable notion that a number of audience members are overcompensating for the mellower tones in the new We Are The Ocean, one that is encouraged by the band’s attitude. Cromby announces that this is the best first night of a tour they have experienced, yet something does not quite ring true with the statement. The new found maturity in their sound is overshadowed by this obvious reluctance for either the band or the fans to accept change, despite a significant change in the musical approach of older material such as ‘All Of This Has To End’ and ‘The Waiting Room’.

Ignoring these frustrations, We Are The Ocean may be delivering one of their best performances in recent months. Cromby sounds exceptional as he swaggers through seventeen songs taken predominantly from ‘Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow’. The addition of a fifth musician on stage allows the new sound to pack one hell of a punch; any mistakes are few and far between and do little but add to the band’s small venue charm. It appears that as a band they are at the top of their game, it’s just a shame that some of tonight’s audience remain 6 months behind.

BEN TIPPLE