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by Margaret Chrystall
“Let’s hit the bar as soon as the last note is struck – see you there!” Oxides frontman Jake Bolt told the Raigmore Motel crowd before Saturday’s last song of the night.
And it was just what you would say when friends, family and loyal supporters had witnessed a promising comeback that was never expected.
It was a return preceded – before The Oxides began – by all the edginess of a group of athletes at a starting line, itching to get started but fearing the big test of guts and muscle ahead.
The sound was great from the off, but it probably wasn’t till third song, In One Ear that Jake in particular looked less like a man battling the fear than the frontman natural he is embracing singing and lead guitaring.
Mikey Duncan on guitar and Archie Stewart on bass are the rock-solid straight men to Jake’s banter and riffage.
And Tom Fullerton gave everything on drums, the final part in the jigsaw of a sound that settles most happily into the late 1990s.
New songs included I Hate You And I Love You, Don’t Know Why – with a video you can watch online now emphasising what the world has been missing since The Oxides disappeared.
Tthere was a chance to speculate that the enticing guitar duet featuring Jake and Mikey, both played out on the stage live in front of you and on the video, could see the start of bigger involvement with the other members of the band as jake is appaarently encouraging.
Both Mikey and Archie were featured on backing harmonies throughout.
All I Do – “This is a ballad, believe it or not!” Jake grinned – and In Control sounded like vintage Oxides before the triumphant finisher Going Overboard in a set jake later pronounced had maybe been a couple of songs too long.
But for the gig’s many who had turned up to support the band, it didn’t seem to feel much too long – just the chance perhaps to remember the rousing rock anthems they had been missing.
The one thing possibly worth a tweak two years on are possibly those peripheral ’90s hangovers – Archie’s great Sergeant Pepper jacket and Jake’s occasional over-emphasised long Cockney drawls, the ghosts of post-BritPop.
They’re the few things that felt like yesterday in a set that signalled fearless tomorrows.
Another natural frontman is Ralia’s Steven Murdoch, confidence and clarity matched by a challenging attitude to gee up a crowd.
It takes guts to cover The Stone Roses’ iconic Sally Cinnamon – even more to slot your own “sent to her from Smithton” reference in. But Ralia – including Rhys Torrance on keyboards and occasional guitar, bassist Andrew ‘Badger’ Stewart and drummer Les Hibbert – made it a little gem.
For me, one of the best songs of their set was Lucy, an apparent mash-up between an original everyday tale of wounded love and Fatboy Slim’s Praise You.
And in eight songs leading to current single Charlton Lane – they even had the title it on a little street sign out front – it was the kind of no-nonsense, intriguing performance that makes you keen to witness another. Really soon.