Delays @ Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, 22nd October 2004
DELAYS - SHEPHERD'S BUSH EMPIRE, LONDON, 22/10/04

The term ‘soft rock’ is one far too liberally used. Any band who don’t bludgeon their guitars to death or fail to appear at shows under suspicious circumstances are automatically pigeon-holed into this rather tame category. It happened to Starsailor, Long View, Keane and Thirteen Senses not to mention other coffee table friendly rockers who fell by the wayside – the consensus always seems to be that the world only has room for one Coldplay, and that familiarity more often than not breeds a nasty feeling of contempt.

It would be easy to place Southampton four piece Delays in such a category, given their sun kissed pop leanings and lead singer Greg Gilbert’s falsetto vocals. This would be a gross injustice however, given the sheer quality of this band - The main difference between Delays and their contemporaries is that they have the unique ability to engineer sublime pop songs with a rock edge that never fail to stop you in your tracks and demand your attention. What’s more they’re signed to ultra cool indie label Rough Trade, home to media darlings The Strokes and The Libertines. So there you have it – on paper, seemingly the perfect band.

The entrancing Bedroom Scene is slipped in early on tonight, and acts as a reminder that debut album Faded Seaside Glamour is nothing short of a masterpiece. ‘Lose Yourself Through Touch/Lose Yourself In Love’ cries Gilbert during the song's finale, and it’s hard not to get swept away with it all momentarily. As soon as Nearer Than Heaven reaches its sky scraping chorus, all three balconies in this supremely tall venue are humming along and it’s only the third song of the evening.

Gilbert goes on to politely inform the crowd that it won’t be too long before a new album sees the light of day, and that they’re using this tour to road test some new songs. If the crowd reaction is anything to go by, it’s sure to be another runaway success. Okay, everyone here tonight would have probably cheered if they started covering Rolf Harris, but what they played did sound rather impressive.

Out Of Nowhere, the pick of the new bunch, is a fast and upbeat affair, a suggestion that they’ve ditched their hairdresser pop image in favour of edgy guitars and huskier vocals, something that suits them incredibly well. Forthcoming single Lost In A Melody benefits from such treatment, and its frantic rendition tonight should be enough to dispel any claims that they’re just another whiney pop outfit.

Hey Girl, their debut single, galvanises some frantic head nodding and for three minutes or so, it feels like we’re in a large field with the sun beating down on us at the height of summer. That’s not to mention single of the year contender Long Time Coming, which sees everyone in the venue join Gilbert in asking the question ‘How Can You Grow Old/You Were My Triumph?’ It’s their version of Run or Yellow, and arguably a hell of a lot better. A feel good pop band with a rock edge who possess a handful of crowd winning anthems. The perfect band indeed.

Jeremy Lloyd