It has been a couple of months since the tragic news broke about Delays’ front man Greg Gilbert’s diagnosis with stage 4 bowel cancer at the age of just 39. His wife Stacey Heale has set up a crowd-funding campaign to help raise funds to find a potential life saving treatment not found on the NHS. To date, with the help of fans, friends, family and other musicians, the campaign has already raised over £150,000 of the £250,000 target.
World famous bands such as Coldplay, The Maccabees and British Sea Power have donated signed merchandise and instruments for an online auction, as well as many fund-raising events like Cavalry featuring sets from Sam Duckworth, The Mystery Jets, Band of Skulls and Delays featuring Primal Screams’ Simone Marie an event that I was lucky enough to attend.
As a long-time fan of Delays, my attendance to this charity concert was a no-brainer. A chance to see some of the best bands on the circuit, including the reformation of Southampton’s own Thomas Tantrum and with all the funds going to a great cause.
Southampton trio Diamond Age bought their dream-like melodies to The 1865 and began a night that will be hard to forget. It took a while for the venue to fill up, and there was a sense of worry that the gig was not going to sell out. In between acts, a buoyant Eddie Temple Morris would bound on stage to MC the night -promoting the Greg Gilbert designed merchandise and of course, the infamous charity night raffle. The fantastic prize of a guitar worth £1000! Sam Duckworth played a short stripped down set that included ‘Wrong Way Round’ and ‘Glass Houses’ and spoke about how proud he was to be in a musical family that will always come together to support one another.
By the time Blaine Harrison and William Rees from The Mystery Jets had entered the stage, the crowd had ballooned in size and there wasn’t a doubt that the place was completely sold out. The guys from Eel Pie island played one of the best acoustic sets of the evening and declared themselves as Delays’ fanboys, beginning with ‘Bombay Blue’ and ‘Bubblegum’ from their latest album ‘Curve of the Earth’ through to crowd faves ‘Young Love’ and ‘Two Doors Down’. Though they left the best ’til last with a William Rees sung ‘The End Up’, that when stripped down to just the basic guitar and keys out-shone the album version into something quite breathtaking.
A reformed Thomas Tantrum were up next with their first live outing in several years, but wanted to pay tribute to their fellow Southampton residents with an electric best of set that featured ‘Shake it, Shake it’, ‘Why The English Are Rubbish’ and ‘Armchair’. It may have taken them a few songs to find their feet, but their fans found themselves throwing dangerous shapes down the front like it was 2008.
Another local band, Band of Skulls completed the third acoustic set of the evening. It was rather odd to see the act sat down and unplugged, but ‘Black Magic’, ‘Hoochie Coochie’ and ‘Devil Takes Care Of Their Own’ definitely worked without the need for amp feedback and pedal effects. Singer/guitarist Russell Marsden dedicated the set to Greg and declared the Delays as “trailblazers for the local music scene.”After Band of Skulls left their stools, Eddie Temple Morris returned to announce the winner of the raffle. Is there anything more British than a charity raffle? Then came time for the main event.
Just to see drummer Rowly and bassist Colin Fox setting up the stage for their headline set brought home the emotional excitement. It had been a few years since many had seen the band perform and there was a lot of talk about exactly what sort of set we were to expect from the band without their central figure. Could Simone Marie be able do the songs justice and how many songs were they going to play? Eddie made his final introduction and let us know that he had only cried four times at a live event Page & Plant, Placebo, The Verve and when Delays played a perfect set at Glastonbury and then made way for the homecoming band to take the stage.
As soon as the group (now a five piece with Simone on vocals and Steve Picken (Coast) on guitar) there were visible tears from the audience. Many thought they would never see the band play live and to be playing for such an occasion was too much for some people not to hide their emotions. Delays stayed professional throughout and kicked off with a storming version of fan-favourite ‘Panic Attacks’, and visually it was strange to not have Greg front of the stage holding his guitar above his head singing the harmonies. Musically, they sounded as tight as ever, and Aaron Gilbert deputised as the band’s frontman with aplomb. Aaron would perform as the main singer for half of their set including tracks like ‘Brilliant Sunshine’ and a heartfelt version of their unreleased track ‘Karman Line’. Eddie Temple Morris could be heard shouting from the balcony “that was amazing” as the song came to a close and who could not agree? Marie took the lead vocals for ‘Wanderlust’, and ‘Valentine’ which took some time to adjust to not hearing Greg’s trademark falsetto, but the audience helped out by singing back the words at the top of their voices. The special guests didn’t end with Simone and Steve, and Aaron introduced on to the stage his Dad to play lead guitar on ‘Lost In a Melody’ and the Gilbert brothers father played and looked the part in his skinny jeans and leather jacket. A great touch and an even greater touch was when Stacey came on stage to thank us all for attending and allowed Greg to see us all on Facebook live – the entire room cheered him on and shouted his name. It was hard not to get caught up in the experience, and it reminded me of why we were there and how we would love to see Greg on stage with his band and play to his friends and family; that’s exactly what we were tonight – all family. Everyone was there to salute the greatness of a band they cherish and for a father, a brother, a son and a hero to get well.
There was just one more song left to play before the night was over. Aaron took to the mic and thanked us all again “for a strange and fucking beautiful night” and what a tribute to his brother that it needed two people to fill his place on stage, before apologising that he may not be able to sing ‘Long Time Coming’ as well as we’re used to hearing. As soon as the opening keyboard notes of the song rang out the place went into meltdown. I have seen the band over a dozen times and have never seen a greater reaction to their biggest hit. As the song came to a close the audience repeated the chorus relentlessly. The band and Stacey looked visually taken aback and Aaron could barely say more than a simple thank you before running to hug the crowd. As the band left the stage, the promoter took the mic to thank and remind us that “we are not friends, we are all family”. It certainly felt that way and maybe Eddie will have to add this gig to his list of concerts that left him in tears. A great night and they raised £25,000!