My third time seeing the wonderful Delays.
It was May 2008, and my gigging life had slowed down to a trudge. For the first time since I arrived in London, here is a year in which I only made it to a single gig.
So what was happening in my life at this time, that was so distracting from the joys of live music? I was still luxuriating in the blissful solitude of the studio flat I’d moved into at the beginning of 2007, after a decade of shared accommodation. I was also still working in the job I’d started the previous July, as a medical secretary to a couple of respiratory consultants. I thoroughly enjoyed this job, but, as is always the way in the NHS, my workload was starting to become unmanageable. At the time of this gig, I was beginning to think that one year as a secretary would be enough, and was tentatively looking around for another job.
So I was very much living the typical life of a 33 year old woman: trying to advance my career, planning for the future, spending time with friends. When it came to cultural distractions, I was much more likely to be found at the Doctor Who exhibition in Earl’s Court, or, indeed, the Doctor Who prom at the Royal Albert Hall. I was fully in geeky fangirl mode, and my hyperventilating days of racing out from gig to gig were well and truly behind me.
Thank god then for Delays, the one band I did manage to get out and see this year. I’d seen them a couple of times previously – first, as a prelude to David Bowie at the Isle of Wight festival in 2004, and then at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire later that same year. I’d fallen in love with the euphoric guitars and blissful harmonies on their first two albums, and in 2008, they released their third, “Everything’s The Rush”. It’s perhaps fitting given my general apathy towards music that year that I was not too impressed with it. From my diary on the 11th of May:
‘I’ve got the new Delays album and it’s not their best, but decent enough to get me excited about their gig on Friday!’
So off I strode to KOKO this Friday evening – only my second time at that venue, after seeing James Dean Bradfield there in 2006. And thankfully, despite being unimpressed with their new album, they remained a brilliant live act. And it seems, from the few lines I wrote about the gig in my diary, there was still a bit of the old Scruffy spirit in me:
‘Sheer pop glory from start to finish and I stood about four rows from the stage in front of Greg and let the lust take hold. Truly the prettiest man in the universe, that one.’
It’s good to know that even at the sensible and mature age of 33, I was not above a bit of indie boy ogling. I was even inspired enough by the fabulousness of this show to grab some merch at the end of the gig. I’d been put off at my last Manics gig by the extortionate prices of their products, but it seems that the Delays swag must have been more reasonably priced.
‘I even had a small merch frenzy, buying a live DVD and a bag before tubing it back to Tooting.’
And I’m very sad to say that I pretty much went on to ignore Delays for the best part of the next decade. I have massive regrets about this – not least because had I bothered to listen to their fourth album “Star Tiger Star Ariel” in 2010, I would have discovered that it was a thing of astounding beauty and quite possibly their best yet. And had I been paying attention in 2014, I could have gone to a tenth anniversary show for their wonderful debut “Faded Seaside Glamour”.
And of course, here we are in pandemic times, and even though it’s beginning to look like gigs could be on the cards in the not-too-distant future, there’s still no guarantee of a thriving live music scene being resurrected any time soon. Even more significant, though, is the fact the Greg Gilbert has been battling cancer for the last four years, and obviously, any potential new gigs will be only possible if his health allows. If they do happen, however, it goes without saying that I’ll be down the front again like a shot.
So, given that this was my only gig of 2008, what did the rest of the year hold for me? A few months after this gig, I did indeed change jobs again, when the opportunity for a promotion to co-ordinate the hospital’s cancer team came along. But the last few months of the year were not brilliant, with my health sliding into disarray, and I had a turbulent 2009 ahead, full of pills, hospital stays and surgery. By the time of my next gig – just over a year after this one in May 2009 – my life would be very different.