Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Delays / 51 Breaks / Jamie Clayton @ The Glee Club, Tuesday 5th October 2010
How’s this for a delay? I’ve waited nearly 6 years to see this band play live. Like ships in the night we’ve missed each other over the years (sold out gigs, clashing dates, me being a lazy ass) but tonight, with Jupiter in Uranus, Mercury rising and all sorts of other shit aligned I finally got to witness their peerless pop majesty for myself.
First up though, to ease us gently into the evening, local singer songwriter Jamie Clayton. Echoes of the ghost of Jeff Buckley flavoured a deeply personal and raw set stuffed to the brim with a clutch of well written, emotionally honest songs. Look out for his debut album in the near future.
In stark contrast to the pared down sound of JC, next up it’s the flamboyant tunage of 51 Breaks. Opening with some kind of orchestral theme tune (played on an i-Pod...somehow I don’t think the Glee Club stage would cope with the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra) 51 Breaks are masters of anthemic synth tinged pop. I’ve seen ‘em a few times before and they never cease to entertain. Kicking off with the pleading ‘Words Regarding’ pretty much every track that followed was instantly hummable, with picks of the pops being Tunnels and, in my humble opinion their strongest number, Occams Razor (which still ain’t up on their MySpace page...doh!).
Time for Southhampton’s finest, Delays. Coming on stage with a cheery “Hello Birmingham” some bright spark in the audience responded “But this is Manchester”. Cue a moment of slight panic as lead singer Greg mentally checked that he was in the right place. Well, this venue is also a comedy club after all. Witty banter aside, at the heart of the band’s sound is Greg’s ball bursting falsetto vocals which were in fine form tonight as the opening number ‘Girl’s On Fire’ proved. Combined with brother Aaron’s voice they instantly brought to mind the vocal alchemy of Fleetwood Mac’s Buckingham / Nicks partnership, a comparison that’s strengthened by the material, soaring pop rock with a slightly dreamy quality. It’s intoxicating stuff and, judging by the people that surrounded me (who seemed to know every single word –and I mean EVERY single word – of every single track...that’s rare at any gig) Delays fans are a devoted bunch. Tonight’s set, which dipped into their critically acclaimed back catalogue of four albums (from 2004’s ‘Faded Seaside Glamour’ through to this year intriguingly named ‘Star Tiger, Star Ariel’) gave them plenty to appreciate.
Of course one of the strengths of the band’s music (the whole dreaminess thing) can sometimes be a weakness if you’re not familiar with all of the tracks and, once or twice, I found the pace (and my attention) drift slightly. But then they pull it back with some of the best pop tracks of the last 20 years and all is forgiven. In fact when they get it right Delays nail it better than most. The pairing of ‘Nearer Than Heaven’ and ‘Valentine’ towards the end of the set was inspired...an instant pop fix as powerful as a shot of adrenaline to the left ventricle. Nearer Than Heaven’s a shimmering jewel of a track, the simple musical arrangement acting as the perfect backdrop for Greg’s angelic vocals. No less effective, but a different beast altogether, Valentine’s driving synth beats and choppy guitars inspired some frantic leaping up and down from the super fans. Nursing a torn stomach muscle (yeah...bench pressing 1500lbs again) I was restricted to some vigorous head nodding. Elsewhere in the set current single ‘Unsung’ neatly blended the dream pop vibe with a rockier element, ‘Wanderlust’ added a slightly Caribbean feel courtesy of that steel drum sample (at least it sounds like steel drum to me) and ‘Friends Are False’ gave the band a chance to reveal their more vitriolic side.
Chatty and at ease with the whole performance the band even found time to pay homage to one man and his moustache. Serves me right for standing at the front. They were very complimentary though. Aaron revealed that he’d tried to grow one but it just ended up as bum fluff. I encouraged him to stick with it...so if everyone in the band ends up with handlebar ‘taches I’m the one to blame.
Doubtless if Delays had packed it all in after their first album I reckon they’d now be held in far greater esteem (a la The La’s and The Stone Roses...yes I know they made a second album but let’s not go there eh?). As it is we lucky people still have a chance to enjoy some of the most sublime pop hits of the last 20 years for ourselves. Was it worth the six year wait? Hell yeah. Now that's what I call Delays-ed gratification.