All the gigs of my life: Gig 91 – Delays, Wednesday, September 22, 2004, Shepherd’s Bush Empire

A glorious gig from the glorious Delays.

This gig was, appropriately enough, delayed by one day

Looking back on my music-fan life from my current 45-year-old vantage point, one thing becomes very clear. The turn of the millennium marks a stark divide in my musical obsessions, and every band that I truly and utterly love began their career in the 20th century, not the 21st.

Well, almost every. There is one dazzling exception to this rule, and they are Delays. Had I been five to ten years younger, I daresay they would have been my last lightning bolt band, changing my life as assuredly as the Manics did in ’93 or Mansun did in ’97. But I was just that little bit too old, at 29, to sell my heart and soul to a new band of skinny, pretty indie boys, especially considering this particular band happened to all be younger than me. It’s hard to fall into that deep, exhilarating intoxication of obsession and idolisation with a gang of boys who have fewer years of life experience than you do.

But it’s an undeniable fact that this wonderful band managed to pierce the jadedness of my advanced years and make me love them with a fervour almost as ardent as that I held for my teenage and early-20s faves, and that is no mean feat indeed. I first became entranced by their divine single “Nearer Than Heaven”, which I taped from the radio some time in early 2004 – very probably the last year I ever taped things from the radio. It’s a soaringly magical and beautiful song which remains one of my favourite songs of all time, and its sense of yearning and longing was intensified for me by the fact that in 2004 I found myself in love for the first time in my life (yes, I am very much the dictionary definition of ‘late bloomer’).

Then came their spellbinding debut album “Faded Seaside Glamour”, and so, of course, I had to see this glorious new band live. My first chance to see them had happened a few months previously at the Isle of Wight Festival as I was waiting for David Bowie, and I had been hugely impressed, so I jumped at the chance to see them at their own headline show.

My sadly all-too-brief diary entry for this gig was clearly written in that midnight post-gig haze of sleepy euphoria that I know so well (and miss so much). The first of its two paragraphs goes some way to describe the magic of Delays that had grasped hold of my heart in 2004:

Want to say something coherent about tonight’s Delays gig. Something about the combination of heart-stopping melody, keyboard electronics and guitar barrage and that most beautiful, beautiful dirty angel voice, and clearly Delays are going to be one of the Great Bands of the next five years or more.’

However, the second paragraph shows that I had not yet changed all that much from my youthful pop-crazed interests:

But all my mind can come up with just now is, Greg Gilbert good LORD I want him.’

For the first time in writing this blog, looking back on these declarations of lust for my favourite indie boys feels a little, well, wrong – I mean, he was younger than me! And yet, for all his undeniable gorgeousness, the truly miraculous thing about Greg Gilbert is his voice. There is no other singer on earth with a voice like his, with its crystal clear purity mixed with a beautifully ragged raspiness. He is, without a doubt, one of my favourite singers of all time.

And its a mark of how wonderful a band Delays are that they managed to make a huge mark on me even in 2004, a year in which my life was crowded with distractions, and my obsession for music was seriously on the wane. The were the last band that made me feel a surge of that youthful euphoria that only comes with discovering a new favourite band. And I will love them forever for that.

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