Aberdeen Works

[B]THE DELGADOS[/B] may be icy cool, but they can still melt [B]PIERS MARTIN[/B]'s heart...

Aberdeen Works

It's only a temporary glitch, but the shields are down for just long enough. Long enough for us to witness a different, altogether more relaxed, Delgados. Gone, for about five minutes mid-set, is the cool professionalism, the frosty veneer scratched by a faulty effects pedal, and we have something approaching a freestyle jam.

Drummer Paul Savage gets unequivocally funky, bassist Stewart Henderson becomes an elastic-fingered Mani, while Emma Pollock does things to her guitar that'd make Thurston Moore weep. Meanwhile, bent double over a grey DAT machine, Alun Woodward forces out loops of strangled trip-hop noise. It's 'Blackpool' gone marvellously wrong. It's grace under pressure, Chemikal Underground-style, and it's sweet relief.

A moment's respite from the taut, unsettling 'Peloton' live experience. Certainly, it's no party. The Delgados are serious. They mean business and the crowd maintain a respectful couple of yards from the front of the stage all evening. It's a strange situation: their fans desperately want to love them, to cherish them dearly, but there's something a little unnerving about 'Peloton'. Placed next to their last 'Domestiques' LP, it's a mature yet mildly unhinged record, a succession of folkish allegories that flit between solace and confusion.

If they were cuter and less efficient, if Emma didn't look so pained each time she sings, if Alun just, well, smiled, then maybe they'd inspire utter, happy-clappy devotion ` la Belle & Sebastian - especially as 'Repeat Failure' sighs like indie sweethearts The Field Mice (prior to being bludgeoned with Sabbath-sized riffs). As it is, tonight they resemble B&S squashed inside a Mini. Augmented by cello, violin and flute, the mild-mannered seven are squeezed on to a four-metre-square stage, so close that the flautist almost catches the end of her instrument in Alun's guitar strings. Normally that would be faintly amusing, but no-one even sniggers. "Don't be scared in the morning, just be scared for tonight", Alun whispers during the lovely 'Clarinet', and he has a point. Mainly because Emma is bathed in red light that makes her look positively evil, but also because of the patent reverence they command from Aberdeen's youth, who clap politely after each song but retain a deathly silence until the next one begins.

There's a sense that The Delgados are already perceived as real indie heroes, official heirs to The Pastels' pioneering spirit, and a far cry from the diluted, chart-topping, Sadness-R-Us likes of Embrace. Authentic and earthy, then, but never bland. And when they get it wrong, even their accidents sound good.

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