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Delays: Caught live at ULU (March 2004)


Review: Jack Foley

SOUTHAMPTON’S Delays look set to become the new kings of the chiming indie guitar scene, so it was little wonder to find that their ULU date sold out within minutes of being announced.

Yet while there was plenty to admire on Wednesday night (March 31, 2004), there is room for improvement, if they are to justify the hype being bestowed upon them.

The ULU date provided the band with their biggest venue to date, and it was apparent, on occasion, that nerves came into play. They weren’t exactly over-awed, but their set could have been a little too ambitious.

With debut album, Faded Seaside Glamour, only available from Monday, the band ought to have been content to promote the songs contained on it, but opted, instead, to toss in a number of new tracks as well.

One of them, the excellent Hideaway, certainly indicates that the content of album number one will be no fluke, but it was only pulled off after one aborted attempt, while certain other ‘new ones’ lacked the polish of that which is contained on the long-player.

Not that the crowd knew, of course, for aside from the singles, Long Time Coming and Nearer Than Heaven, very few among them could probably have picked out what was ‘new’ or album-based.

But it did run the risk of alienating people from the quality of Faded Seaside Glamour, given the difference in quality between them.

The presence of a music box with pre-recorded backing tracks was also surprising, lending certain songs a slightly manufactured feel.

One of the defining aspects of the singles, thus far, is their ability to sound fresh and exciting, without the need for slick production values. Hence, seeing them recreated live was one of the primary reasons for being there.

And while the set was extremely tight, and the guitars sounded as memorable as they do in single form, there were times when the band’s decision to fall back on pre-recorded material seemed a little disappointing, especially during the track, Stay Where You Are.

That’s not to detract from the quality of the rest of the gig, however, for this was mostly an accomplished set which offered plenty of potential to build upon for the future.

Greg Gilbert’s distinctive, falsetto-style vocals, which sound impossibly feminine at times, lived up to the pressure presented by their biggest date, while the chiming guitars were as lush as ever.

Album tracks such as Wanderlust, Bedroom Scene and You Wear The Sun, with their steel drums and chiming guitars, further the feel-good vibe that is contained within the singles, while slower moments, such as There's Water Here, which was sung by Gilbert alone, suggest that they are capable of diversifying.

And when the time came to deliver the big numbers - most notably, Long Time Coming - the crowd responded with unbridled enthusiasm, even singing back the chorus to the band’s obvious delight.

An encore of early single, Hey Girl, also brought things to a suitably rousing and upbeat finale, which left everyone with the fondest memories of a breakthrough night of gig-going.

For the Delays, this could mark a major transition, as they will now know they have what it takes to headline to a big crowd. Throughout, they conducted themselves with tremendous energy and enthusiasm and even demonstrated some nice banter, to counter-balance some of the more awkward musical moments.

Whether they learn the lessons presented by their mistakes is the next big lesson, as is the battle to stay in the limelight. As previously stated, there should be nothing to prevent the band from emerging as future indie kings, and on the evidence of this, greatness is beckoning.

In the meantime, fans should do their bit by rushing out and buying the album.

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