Where have this lot been? The post-Britpop Yorkshiremen have been on a lengthy hiatus. Is their return a return to form or a desperate embrace of the music business’s leg?
Date: May 11, 2014
Venue: Rock City
Hands up who remember Embrace, the post-Britpop band that dealt in anthemic indie-rock with a northern romanticism? And hands up who thought they’d packed it all in? Well, after an eight-year hiatus, they’re back, back because they’ve written an album that they’re proud of, and which this tour aims to promote. No money-spinning ‘Greatest Hits’ tour here, thank you very much.
Wasting no time at all at a packed Rock City, they begin with a triumvirate of new songs, the first trio from their eponymous new album. Protection comes across all motorik beats and strobe lighting until its soaring chorus kicks in; In The End is a typical gigantic Embrace opus with clanging guitars and Danny McNamara’s pained vocals, while Refugees sees Danny handover vocal duties to his brother Richard, whose voice is as rich and searching as Sting’s.
It’s a risky start, but these songs are welcomed like golden oldies. Talking of which, many are aired, starting with their highest charting single to date, Natures Law. It’s a little shaky in fairness, but it recovers well.
Danny will be the first to admit he’s not the best singer in the world, and it’s palpable. But when the crowd are on your wavelength it becomes unimportant. Like on My Weakness is None of Your Business. It wobbles and dips, and relies on a pumped audience to propel it.
Gravity – written by Coldplay – is their most emotive song; a heart-wrenching, tear-jerker that is Chris Martin’s loss and our gain.
With glow sticks in the air, Danny – who has already announced that Rock City is one of his favourite venues – is pandering again, declaring “that’s beautiful”, as a sea of red glow sticks and mobile phones enlighten newbie Follow You Home, with its U2 guitars and “oh-oh oh-oh” mantra. With the crowd in full voice, it’s the perfect warm-up for their seminal hit, Come Back To What You Know, a monumental post-Britpop classic.
Ashes is immense, an indie masterpiece with a chest-beating chorus; the crowd lapping up its nucleus with loud voices, while All You Good Good People is tantalisingly ecstatic and should have ended the gig.
Instead we get the taut new album closer A Thief On My Island, and the galloping, almost techno Quarters, before the rabble-rousing One Big Family, the Joy Division-aping Decades and, finally, the outstanding The Good Will Out.
It’s like they’ve never been away. Embrace this band. Embrace Embrace.