The Delgados, while never being household names, have quietly become one of the most influential bands of recent times. The founders of the Chemikal Underground label, which gave bands such as Arab Strap and Mogwai their big break, they’ve also released five albums of ever-increasing quality.
Their most recent release, Universal Audio, is the best of their career, being unashamedly accessible, yet retaining their familiar dark edge. So far though, it’s not replicated the success of the likes of Snow Patrol though, and they remain firmly cult favourites. Not that all that matters to the fans inside the Leadmill, who welcome them onstage to a rapturous reception.
From the moment the band crash into I Fought The Angels, it’s clear that The Delgados are something very special indeed. The almost impossibly petite Emma Pollack has a voice as sweet as honey, and sounds even better live than she does on the record. Fellow vocalist Alun Woodward is also in excellent voice, with his songs serving as a fine counterpoint to Pollack’s more poppy numbers.
Delgados audiences are never the most animated of beasts, and it was no exception at the Leadmill. There was no frenzied moshing, just a group of appreciative fans listening intently and enjoying every minute. There was a surreal edge to proceedings during All You Need Is Hate though, when a lovey-dovey couple at the back gazed into each others eyes singing “hate is all around…come on hate yourself, everyone else does”.
There was even a bit of audience banter through the gig, with bassist Stuart Henderson sharing a phobia of Sheffield he’s had ever since seeing the notorious BBC nuclear drama Threads. Pollack even asked for any horror film recommendations, reacting with glee when someone suggested Saw (“do they saw people up? F*ckin’ great!!”).
Yet it was the music that everyone had come to hear tonight, and the band didn’t disappoint. The dark piano ballad of Come Undone was a particular highlight, with Pollack’s voice being particularly affecting. There was even an outbreak of spontaneous audience bopping during Get Action, another highlight from the new album.
Older songs were also dusted down, such as the wondrous American Trilogy and Accused Of Stealing from the Mercury nominated Great Eastern album, and Arcane Model, from the band’s early album Peloton, was greeted enthusiastically by the hardcore faithful.
The best was saved to last however with an encore of a rousing No Danger – from the opening violin and piano line, Woodward and Pollack combined to perfect effect to show just why so many people hold the Delgados in such high regard. With the Scottish music scene in such rude health right now, it would be a shame if the songwriting genius of Pollack and Woodward went unnoticed by more people – for now though, the loyal fans inside the Leadmill were sure that they’d just seen Scotland’s best kept musical secret.