The Delays / Captain / Nightmare Of You - Academy 3 - 27.2.06

Tonight Matthew, Im going to be Billie Joe from Greenday fronting the Smiths. It seems like some future vision of hell where Simon's Cowell and Fuller argue over the TV rights for an ill-fated program where they raise past rockstars from the dead and breed some Frankensteins monster of a collaboration out of it all. It really shouldn't work, but after 3 years solid of emo bands claiming to be influenced by the Smiths it was only a matter of time before a band was overt and obvious about it, stole the guitar riffs wholesale and applied a touch of eyeliner for some post-modern take on it.

All that said, Nightmare Of You are a great band that are likely to appeal to Fall Out Boy (who they supported on their last visit to the UK) fans as well as that of Franz Ferdinand or the Libertines. "Dear Scene, I Wish I Were Deaf" and "The Days Go By Oh So Slow" feature the semi-acoustic tweeness that made songs such as "Ask" such a joy and in turn inspired the careers of Belle & Sebastian. "Thumbelina" is their "Reel Around The Fountain", a mid tempo ballad of sexual longing that's as geeky as it sounds. It's not Morrissey all over the place as on "My Name Is Trouble" takes its direction from New Order with a four to the floor beat and spacey orb-esque ambience....more worrying there's a brief period during the sets closer that they sound like the Police.

Captain have to be one of the worst bands we've seen in years and already other publications are salivating over them. A bizarre prog-pop combo who sound like Ultrasound playing Dogs Die In Hot Cars tunes and believe us when we say it sounds worse that the reads on paper. They're the sort of band a marketing exec would dream up and get completely wrong - the frontman sounds like Roddy Woomble from Idlewild meets the singer of Nizlopi, the female synth player looks like a younger version of the pyschosexual Sheila from Shameless and they only really have one potential hit on their hands with "Glorious", a northern soul romp. It's bands like this that make you just want to give up.

It seems years ago that Delays were sandwiched between The Ordinary Boys and 22-20s on a package tour representing the Best of British and once again after a prolonged break recording their second album "You See Colours" they find themselves with copious column inches talking about the glorious British Pop renaissance. While Preston and his Ordinary Boys have just about rescued their career through Heat Magazine and a pastiche of a Madness song in "Boys Will Be Boys" and 22-20s have split up citing irreconcilable musical differences, it seems Greg and Aaron Gilbert have been writing life affirming pop songs that span generations from tweenagers hooked on "Valentine" and the old skool Delays fan who fell in love with the debut album.

Minutes before the band hit the stage rumours spread through the venue like wildfire that the band have been, ahem, delayed from their appearance on TOTP's earlier that day. After disaster stuck on their helicopter and it was grounded with 2 hours to spare they were rushed to a private jet to take them straight to Manchester Airport before being ferried across to the venue to literally walk on stage as the final bars of Prince's " Raspberry Beret" came to a close.

Within the first song they've managed to marr Giorgio Moroder synths to the jingly jangly rhythms of the Smiths. Oh and that voice. That glorious voice which can slip between the upper range falsetto through to a raspy sneering Liam Gallagher-esque roar within a rhyming couplet. After a couple of new tracks which warm up the dancing shoes but leave the vocal chords untouched they launch into "Long Time Coming" from "Faded Seaside Glamour" to remind us of why we fell for the Delays first time round.

New single "You And Me" starts with just Greg Gilbert's vocals floating over the crowd before the synthetic looping string section comes in and the crowd gets lost in a melody. With two brothers in the band there's a natural rivalry, but rather than get caught up in some Davies brothers Kinksian nightmare of fisticuffs before bedtime, Greg and Aaron seem to be involved in a contest for the audiences affections throughout. Greg may be the frontman of the band, but its clear Aaron wants some of the attention as he bounds across the stage at the pivotal moments to lend his backing vocals care of Fox's mic.

"Bedroom Scene" sung with just a guitar for accompaniment shows at the heart of every great Delays moment is just a beautifully crafted song and without the vocals to carry it this songs instrumentally could easily have come from David Bowie's or Oasis' back catalogue such is the classic structure.

Whether its singles like "Nearer Than Heaven" and "Hey Girl" or "Out Of Nowhere" and "This Town's Religion" from the aforementioned "You See Colours" album they all hit the spot with the most perfect pop songs ever written. With the camp disco pop of "Valentine", perversely released the week after valentines day, thrown away before the encore they return to a depleted audience who'd hung on till the last minute missing the last bus home. The faithful however are rewarded with "One Night Away" and "On", songs which step away from the strict regimented format of early offerings tonight and lead us on groove led mantra till the lights head up.

If Delays aren't the biggest band in the UK by the end of the year then something is surely amiss

Words: Alex McCann
Photos: Shirlaine Forrest

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Read our review of the Delays first tour with The Ordinary Boys - Click Here!!!