Embrace - O2 Academy, Leeds 14th May 2014 Live Review

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As Danny McNamara will reference during the course of proceedings, Yorkshire quintet Embrace headlined two outdoor shows at Leeds Millennium Square in 2005, before seemingly disappearing after the release of their fifth album the following year.  With their self-titled comeback album having charted in the top five, tonight's homecoming sits in the middle of a headline tour, while the summer months see them straddle the festival circuit.


Arriving onstage to a hero's welcome, the band begin with a trio of cuts from the latest record.  The older McNamara has never been the greatest live vocalist, but 'Protection' suits him while 'In The End' is a heavier prospect compared to the album counterpart after technical issues command a restart part way through.  Vocal duties are handed over to Richard McNamara for 'Refugees', which begins in timid fashion, but by the time the chorus kicks in the younger brother is unleashing an impressive  performance.  The track also prompts the crowd into an impromptu continuation of the hook after the track has ended, something repeated later with 'Follow You Home'; that marks a sure-fire festival favourite this year.  

When a band has been on hiatus for the best part of a decade, it is natural that songs from the back catalogue be in demand. 'Nature's Law' is well received whilst the career-resurrecting 'Gravity' gains mass participation, but 'Come Back To What You Know' prompts such a sing-a-long that  McNamara simply mimes the lyrics whilst the audience take control. That a song released 16 years ago can prompt such a joyous reaction is quite remarkable, and the energy is nearly matched during 'Ashes' for which the crowd bounces relentlessly.  Fans of Embrace's debut 'The Good Will Out' album are further satisfied by outings of 'All You Good Good People' and 'That's All Changed Forever', before a dynamic 'A Thief On My Island' brings the main set to a dynamic conclusion.

Returning for a four song encore, the band attempt to take the venue back to its nightclub days with 'Quarters'; a brave decision given the pitch of vocals it contains and, to their credit, they just about get away with it. The celebratory mood of the night is furthered with a few old favourites to close out - 'One Big Family', 'Save Me' and 'The Good Will Out' - all of which are enthusiastically enjoyed by those in attendance. During the course of the night Danny McNamara attempts to articulate how special it is to be able to come back to such a response after so many years away. Given the reaction of the capacity audience, it is clear to see that their fans appreciate the band's return.  

Alex Lai

Official Site - http://www.embrace.co.uk

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