Gig review: Embrace at O2 Academy Leeds

Embrace playing O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
Embrace playing O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
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In the lead-up to the release of their latest long-player Love Is a Basic Need, Embrace frontman Danny McNamara railed against the idea of his band as a heritage act to this very newspaper.

“We don’t see ourselves as a band from back then anymore,” he resolutely stated when asked how many nineties-geared festival bills he finds himself sharing. “We see ourselves as a band from now, because we’re still releasing stuff that is as good as anything we’ve ever done before.”

Embrace playing O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Embrace playing O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

You’ve got to admire the cojones on them then; if not as obstinate as to play the whole thing in full, McNamara and his bandmates, including guitarist brother Richard, still lean heavily on their post-hiatus output at the final night of their UK tour at Leeds’s O2 Academy. It’s a brave, if admirable call; amidst the ephemeral euphoria of this almost-homecoming gig, their rallying cry against rose-tinted nostalgia is a risky roll-of-the-dice.

Having originally straddled the anthemic post-Britpop gulf between Oasis’s grandiose musings and Coldplay’s arms-aloft balladry, Embrace haven’t refashioned the wheel since returning from the hiatus wilderness; merely, they’ve changed the tyres for fresher rubber.

Under blue hues, they run smooth and frictionless; opener Wake Up Call treads the same mid-tempo bombast of their heyday, with added spit-polish, whilst Rabbit Hole’s skyscraping indie looms somewhere close to the ambient heavens. Follow You Home, 2014’s comeback from the hiatus wilderness, is a propulsive alt-rock highlight, surprisingly akin to the aesthetic of Las Vegas magpies Imagine Dragons, and prompting the same kind of beery singalong awarded to All You Good Good People.

McNamara the elder remains lithe and elfin at 47, scraggly curls and stubble intact. Enthusiastically languid as a vocalist throughout, he struggles to rise above the echoed swirl of noise, half-audible here and there on straight-up lighters anthem Nature’s Law.

Embrace playing O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Embrace playing O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

He departs midway through for a brace of tracks, with his younger sibling taking up singing duties, including a pretty piano rendition of Drawn from Memory that prompts swaying in the stalls.

From there, Embrace run a solid home straight; proceedings are wrapped up with a run of hits including the Chris Martin-penned Gravity, and an encore of The Good Will Out in all its pomp-sweep glory.

They depart grinning with roars in their ears, to presumably celebrate their winnings; twenty years into the game, they’re still coming up trumps when the chips look to be down.