With a new platinum selling album and two top ten singles Embrace have made the most surprising return to chart success since Santana. This evening, the second of two Brixton Academy gigs, is the culmination of a sold out UK tour.
As is traditional for the Huddersfield five-piece they enter the stage to the sound of Louis Armstrong’s ‘What A Wonderful World’. It is tempting to suggest that this song was chosen because the chances of Louis hitting a high note are even more remote than for Embrace front man Danny McNamara. However that would be just another cheap shot aimed towards the band since the tremendous success of their 1998 debut album ‘The Good Will Out’.
The crowd are rapturously appreciative of their resurrected heroes from the opening song, ‘Ashes’. This instant adulation shows no sign of abating throughout the set even during the two new songs performed tonight, ‘Contender’ and an as yet untitled tune. To the uninitiated Danny McNamara is difficult to warm to as a band figurehead. His desire to raise his arms to acknowledge the crowd’s acclaim after each song looks unnecessarily self-satisfied, but even after endless repetition it still provokes only a positive reaction.
I assume that most indie rock fans have already formed hardened opinions regarding Embrace. So when the crowd favourites like ‘All You Good Good People’ and ‘Save Me’ are played they are either epic and rousing or bombastic and predictable depending upon your
standpoint. The paying public here tonight would undoubtedly choose the former descriptions. In particular the chorus of ‘Save Me’ whipped previously mild mannered people into something approaching a frenzy.
Even for someone like myself who has failed to be converted to the charms of Embrace this evening did contain some musical highlights. It may just have been desperation to bask in the warm nostalgia of nineties Britpop but ‘Come Back To What You Know’ sounded like the uplifting anthem that so many Embrace songs aspire to achieve. Fans of the band will probably hate me for saying it but ‘Gravity’ instantly stood out for its classic simplicity and ability to sound effortlessly heartfelt. Written for the band by Chris Martin it provided the commercial kick-start that has recently propelled Embrace back into the limelight.
After almost splitting up when they were between record labels before the recording of the latest album, ‘Out of Nothing’, the McNamara brothers seem to be understandably intent on consolidating their new found success. Embrace are poised to begin their first tour of the USA and then a brief stop in Ireland sets them up for the summer festival season. They are sharing the same bill as REM on Sunday 12 July at the Isle of Wight Festival. Even more notably they have organised their own open air shows at the Millenium Square in Leeds on 28-29 May supported by, amongst others, their proteges Longview and Thirteen Senses.