Who would have thought I'd find summer sunshine on the drizzle-streaked streets of grey Dublin on a Saturday night in November? And in a blacked-out venue the size of a suburban semi? Well, not this cynical reviewer. I landed at the TBMC all hot and bothered, thanks to Dublin Bus's irritable irregularity, and promptly stocked myself up with some 'medicinal' wine to recover from my ordeal, taking a seat towards the back of the 'room'(for that, precisely, is what it was) to witness Dublin foursome Hal perform the last of their psychedelic pop-epic numbers. I was impressed and taken by surprise at their large-scale performance, unlike most support bands I have witnessed recently.
So the scene was set for my seduction. At this stage I was relaxed enough to move up towards the stage, noticing that the general crowd atmosphere was friendlier than most concerts. A young, diverse and highly excitable (yet not annoyingly so) selection of music fans were present, and of course the size of the venue seems to bring out a gregarious influence in the punters (an increasingly rare occurrence in Dublin). When it comes to seduction, music is my Achilles heel, and Delays struck directly at it by playing one of my all-time favourite (and arguably one of the most underrated) pop songs, Wishing I Had A Photograph Of You by notoriously-coiffured one-hit-wonders A Flock Of Seagulls immediately before taking the stage. That piece of 3-minute 80s psychedelic pop genius put the crowd in a subliminally happy and summery mode, then the Southampton foursome took the stage.
The band are led by brothers Greg & Aaron Gilbert. For all you football fans out there, lead singer Greg was a youth trainee at Portsmouth in the mid-90s, however he chose to forego a potential career in football (and apparently called time on his career by launching a four-letter tirade at then Pompey boss Jim Smith before storming out). Football's loss is clearly the enormous gain of an increasingly tired and nostalgic 'How Will We Find Another Britpop Explosion' UK indie scene which refers to the misguided bibles of NME and Q magazine. The band evidently owe a heavy debt to shoegazing bands of the early 1990s such as Ride, Slowdive and The Sundays, however they cleverly tie in their influences with Fleetwood Mac (the Gilbert brothers share a remarkable similarity, not only in appearance, but in performance, to Stevie Nicks), the Stone Roses (some guitar riffs have a touch of the John Squire about them), and Gilbert's mezzo-falsetto-yet-nicely-rock'n roll-hoarse vocals put a stamp on their music which is uniquely their own. Willingness to experiment with unusual music styles and instruments, and cover them with silky indie guitars also helps.
Commencing the show with some melancholy gentle chord strums and subtle vocals, the crowd were put at ease when they launched into the catchy, yet elegant Bedroom Scene, reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac's Dreams. This song serves to reinforce the rather fey image of Delays, though I was surprised to see that lead singer Greg has ceased wearing scarves at shows (he had previously confessed to not being able to perform without donning a scarf, not that he has anything to hide, more to add to the classic dandiness of the band's image). I also noticed a lot of female admirers in their late teens, early twenties, who were copying the band's general look of floral shirts, 1970s hairdos and scarves in the audience. I worried that they may be peaking too soon when they followed that up with what this reviewer considers to be one of 2004's finest singles, Nearer Than Heaven. Although the vocals were of rather low volume, they succeeded in bringing a touch of British Summer Time to this poky dark venue, and led the reserved Dublin audience to throw their hands in the air in pure joy.
Gilbert then stated the band's intentions to imminently record a follow-up to this year's hit Faded Seaside Glamour album, and requested the audience's patience as they wished to try out a few new numbers. He also took the opportunity to dedicate the first new number, Out Of Nowhere (a much faster-paced but no less melodic rocky jaunt, listen out for it accompanying Jeremy Clarkson trying out 2005's finest new cars down English country lanes on Top Gear some time soon) to the sadly-missed, recently-departed patron saint of new indie music, John Peel. No doubt Peelie had encountered Delays (or Idoru, as their previous incarnation was known as) and helped them along the path to musical enlightenment and recognition. Another new song, Never Alone was tried out, much to the crowd's delight, and dare I say that it sounded quite punky? Clearly a much livelier second album is in the pipeline.