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LIVE REVIEW: Embrace, please come back to what you know...

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The balance for any band on tour is to give the crowds what they want - the old tracks that bagged them so many fans in the first place, while weaving in just enough new material to help push sales of the latest album.

For Embrace, a band who have been off the road for the past eight years, they seem a little ring rusty when it comes to set lists, especially given the notable shift in sound for their sixth eponymously-titled studio album.

The post-Britpop 90s band were at Nottingham’s Rock City on Sunday, and can declare their return a real triumph.

Thousands of fans crammed into sweat-box surroundings and most, like me, were eager to hear their particular brand of anthemic indie ballads that launched the band to stardom two decades ago.

But with a new era comes a new style of song, out goes their catchy guitar pop for a more synthesised dancey direction, reminiscent of the New Order era (guitarist Richard McNamara even pulled out a teardrop guitar at one point- a nod to Joy Division’s late, great front man Ian Curtis perhaps?)

For those who have waited those long years since the band’s last outing, it was a strange start to a gig as they rattled off several new tracks off in quick succession, leaving only the few die-hard fans at the front able to get the party started.

Maybe the West Yorkshire five-piece were trying to make a point about wanting to move on.

Indeed front man Danny McNamara, a man who once looked like he lived in his flares, was dressed in skinny jeans.

It is well documented that he had fallen out of love with music making after the release of their fifth album in 2006, but had since rekindled his passion.

At times on Sunday he looked awkward on stage, was unsure what to do with his arms and seemed a little lacking in confidence, which I suppose has its own charm away from the arrogance of other indie bands of their era (Liam Gallagher take note).

It was, after all, only Embrace’s the third gig into their UK comeback tour...which also might explain the problems with his mic volume that made his voice inaudible at times.

But as the band began to trot out the tracks the rest of us 30-somethings fondly remember, the likes of ‘Come Back to What You Know’, ‘My Weakness’ and the stomping ‘One Big Family’ and ‘All You Good Good People’, he began to soar and all was quickly forgiven.

At one point between tracks he even dared to roll out the classic rock cliche that “this is one of our favourite venues!”, a line surely reserved for every crowd on their tour list.

However, he worked the crowd throughout, and by the end had us all singing along even after insisting the rest of the band stop, making it a fitting finale.

The problem is that the new tracks just don’t quite fit alongside the tried and tested material, so maybe a reshuffle could help, but it’s hard to see how it could ever topple the appeal of their previous work.

Before launching into the final track of the night, the title track of their 1998 debut album ‘The Good Will Out’, Danny said: “It won’t be another eight years until we see you again.” I genuinely hope so too, even if it is just to hear those tracks from a by-gone era.

 

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