Friday, 27 January 2023

The Delgados at The Barrowland

After 17-years away, The Delgados returned to a live stage in Glasgow on Burns Night, bringing their own unique poetry and music to the hallowed turf of the Barrowland Ballroom.

Andrew Wasylyk was a phenomenal choice to support. Wasylyk is one of Scotland's most talented and prolific artists in my eyes. The string of albums he has released over the last 6-years highlight an incredible ear for music. Think David Axelrod soundscapes; soulful, jazzy, atmospheric ...  Wasylyk was in his element, lost in the music, playing piano but also singing along to the melodies. It was beautiful to watch and to experience.

My friend Joe and I had kid duties to attend to before we could head to the Barrowland, but we managed to catch the last 20-minutes of Wasylyk's set, including a sublime Last Sunbeams Of Childhood. Wasylyk thanked The Delgados profusely for allowing him to bring his 8-piece set up on tour.

The Delgados were pretty prompt to come on stage, mere minutes after 9pm. A traditional ballroom tune was the soundtrack to their entrance, lights hitting off the disco ball and causing many to stare up to the beautiful Barrowland ceiling.

If you're going to come back after an 18-year absence then The Delgados method is one heck of a way to do it. The 4-piece of Emma Pollock, Alun Woodward, Stewart Henderson (looking super chiselled and handsome - I believe Stewart is a Fireman these days) and Paul Savage were joined by their friend Graeme Smilie plus a 5-piece string and flute section. 

What a beautiful noise they created!

As a music fan, there are times when you experience something truly special, when everything clicks. This was one of those nights, one of those shows. The sound, the atmosphere, the music, the band and the way the songs connected with the audience. It was emotional.

At times it could be deliciously raw and then the strings could come in and lift the song to higher places. Pollock (half) joked as she introduced the string section 'we'd be shit without them.'

 Strings are central to some songs, they supplement others, adding emotion, a cinematic flair and they transform The Delgados. Do the band write the string sections? They are stunning.

I came away with a greater appreciation for The Delgados and each individual member; Emma Pollock's rhythm guitar playing, Alun Woodward's soul baring lyrics and the way he sings them over lysergic melodies, Stewart Henderson's solid bass groove and Paul Savage bossing the drums. And Graeme Smilie on piano/keys (so important to The Delgados sound) was a gem.

Everything Goes Around The Water set the scene, this was going to be one of those special nights under the Barrowland stars. This feeling was immediately backed up as the band moved on to Accused of Stealing, Pollock's tumbling vocal melodies over Savage's beats, dropping for the gorgeous piano melody.

The Delgados can rock out as well, Under Canvas Under Wraps was delivered at a ferocious and furious pace, sounding like something The Breeders were knocking out in the early 90's.

As much as I love that kind of stuff, when it comes to The Delgados, it's the songs that have more space within them and the songs that have strings that simultaneously play your own heart strings that I truly love.

I recently blogged on American Trilogy as part of my Trust Me series of blogs. Having listened to the song multiple times this month, I've really fallen for it all over again. So to hear and see it performed in the Barrowland felt like an honour. It was a true privilege to witness Alun Woodward sing his brittle heart out on this one.

The Delgados were flying now, lifting the audience up alongside them for the ride. The whole set was incredible, but the second half in particular was particularly captivating. I barely said a word the whole night, but there were a few times when i turned to my friend Joe to either whisper 'what a run of songs' or to just raise my eyebrows and exchange knowing glances.

Did I mention strings and melodies playing with our own heart strings? Yeah, one of those runs of songs was American Trilogy into Reasons For Silence (Ed's Song), then The Light Before We Land, followed by The Past That Suits You Best

WOW! We were then almost jolted from a cinematic, floaty dream with the warm urgent guitar pop of Everybody Come Down - one of my favourite Delgados songs.

Photo by Christina Pieraccini

And then we were flying high again on another of my real favourites. All You Need Is Hate. Joe and I were standing in front of the string section. My eyes moved from them to Alun (smiling), to Emma (beaming), Stewart and a little glimpse of Paul Savage lost in his beats. What a f**king beautiful noise. What a song! 

Coming on for the encore, Emma spoke fondly of driving to London to collect 1,000 7-inch singles and with that the band were into debut single Monica Webster. The band tore through it with real relish and love.

The penultimate song was the epic No Danger, piano and strings combining so beautifully, so hauntingly, so movingly, Woodward's soothing vocal melody cutting in, I've been hanging round for days, building to the beats and guitar and finally the chorus.

'cause we don't know we're strong enough
And chances come too soon
But people, people we're not in love
And now we're singing out of tune

Thirteen Gliding Principles closed proceedings, the band departing to a spellbound audience. I was so spellbound I had to be reminded that the band had closed with this song! I think No Danger had literally stopped me in my tracks!

WOW! A near 2-hour set that captivated a sold out Barrowland crowd from start to finish. The Delgados flew, The Delgados soared, The Delgados lifted an entire room of people off the ground and took us all on a dreamy journey on Wednesday night. It was a very, very special evening.

Emma hinted (well basically told us) that they would be playing a Summer Nights show at the Kelvingrove Bandstand. They might need to do 2-nights as I imagine every single person at The Barrowland will be trying to get a ticket and will all have told their friends about what a fantastic time they had at The Barrowland.

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