Expectation can be a bitch sometimes. When heading out to see the band responsible for possibly your favourite album of the last three years, a band you’ve seen live and been blown away by before and the best small venue in the country, you expect to see something special. Without them even knowing, you are putting a truckload of pressure on the band to live up to your, probably, unrealistic expectations.
Tonight Delphic will take to the stage at the Norwich Arts Centre in front of an excited and expectant audience. It has been nearly three years since they last performed here, shortly after the release of their white-hot and near faultless indie dance debut, Acolyte. It was supposed to be just the beginning for the boys from Manchester, tipped by many (they placed third in the BBC Sound of 2010 poll and the Guardian named them on of their 10 bands to watch) but after touring the album they dropped off the radar for quite a while. After taking their time writing new material they are back and ready to share the fruits of their labours.
A hush descends on the crowd as the light dims and the band steps on stage, a few whoops and cheers burst forth as the first sort of new track, it was released in the summer as one of the official tracks of the Olympics, “Good Life” opens the set. “We Wait/We Wait/We Wait/We Wait” they sing, echoing the thoughts of the crowd, so grateful to have them back after so long. It’s a high energy opening with a track that will prove to be a bridge from the old to the new.
The band moves seamlessly on, urging us to dance with “Halcyon” before dropping the first new track proper and the first indication of their new sound. “Baiya” is a sexified funky track which, as with all the new songs, downplays the dance and brings in new elements from other genres. Here it is a bit of hip-hop and a tight, Peaches sort-of vibe. Soaring synths and uplifting choruses it may not have, but it goes hard and doesn’t feel out of place in the set.
They may have been away from us for so long, but they are sounding as tight as ever and the drum patterns are crisper than Gary Lineker’s wildest fantasy. Banter is kept to the barest of minimums, the odd thanks is about as far is it goes as they prefer to rattle on. Tracks from Acolyte are played with, blended into one another, given extended mixes or breakdowns and the crowd laps it up. The instantly recognisable introduction to “Doubt” is slowed to a near standstill, giving it a surprisingly dark, sci-fi edge, as if it were the soundtrack to Prometheus, before kicking back in and hitting maximum warp.
New tracks are dropped in at opportune moments and met warmly, each one varying in style from the last. There is more rock, more wailing guitar, more hip-hop, more urging to “move sucka, dance sucka”, more relaxation, less corporeal, less dance and less synths. The crowd nods, dances, bounces its approval. “Atlas”, appropriately, sounds huge. A vast sprawling song that lurches in a variety of directions, collecting sounds from each location and getting bigger as it goes. It’s breathtaking stuff.
The evening draws to its close as old favourites “Counterpoint” and “Acolyte” finishes the set to leave the crowd buzzing. The time away has not hurt Delphic, they may have chosen a new musical path but they have not sacrificed quality in doing so. Expectations have been met and instead we feel only excitement for the old and new and hope that we won’t need to wait quite so long for their return.