It has been seven or eight years since Embrace played in Glasgow. To mark the return of the band they are playing the (by comparison to previous shows,) tiny King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. The venue is absolutely rammed to point of nearly no breathing space.
I remember watching Embrace play this very same room the night before their debut album The Good Will Out was released and being so very excited. Tonight there was definitely an air of excitement permeating around the room before the band hit the stage.
At exactly 10pm, the band comes on stage to rapturous applause and launch into ‘Protection’ from the forthcoming album Embrace. We then get another three new tracks including latest single ‘Refugees’ which had an impressive singalong from the crowd.
It was when ‘Ashes’ started up that the crowd seemed to (naturally) get really excited, especially when this was followed up immediately by ‘All You Good Good People’ and ‘Looking As You Are’ which the crowd sung word for word.
With that triple-whammy of hits, the crowd was jubilant with one punter shouting “Danny! Danny! Danny!” repeatedly once the music had stopped. Singer Danny McNamara leaned across to him and said. “That’s good, what are you called?” When the excited punter replied with “Fraser” Danny led the crowd in a chorus of “Fraser! Fraser! Fraser!”. All to much humour.
Next up was another fresh track ‘Follow You Home’ which had dual vocals from Danny and Rich and an extremely catchy singalong hook. A future classic right there. The new tracks are less grandiose and orchestral in feel than many of the band’s back catalogue and there is some strong experimental samples and a grittier edge to the sound. I was impressed for the most part though some of the new material fell way short of their past glories. The crowd seemed to think so too.
However, I have to draw reference to one thing which may be what marred the show and in particular the new tracks; Danny’s vocals were all over the place. I’ve seen Embrace easily 10 or 12 times over the years and I’ve never once had an issue with this – in fact I love the band live. They have such energy and brilliant singalong moments. Tonight it was amazing to see the band back, but there were more than just a few moments where I winced at the sounds coming from Danny.
For example there was a new slow song just before ‘Nature’s Law’ which was just an awful dirge. It was flat and painful. The song may be brilliant on album and the band played fine but I was distracted by the singing. As a real died-in-the-wool fan it is great to have them back but this is a horrible moment where I worry for their future shows. Can they make two successful comebacks?
‘Nature’s Law’, ‘Someday’ and ‘Gravity’ were next and these got the crowd absolutely chanting along though Danny was struggling more than a little. In truth ‘Gravity’ was not the beautiful song it can be.
The main set finished with another new song – ‘A Thief On My Island’ – the last one on the new album. It has a slightly funky musical direction with half beats etc, but vocals were just all over the place once more. The last few minutes of samples and instrumental electronica ending were superb.
Back for an encore and we were asked what we wished to hear. When somebody shouted for ‘Come Back To What You Know’ Embrace had to admit “We don’t know it. We haven’t rehearsed it. We’ve not played it in eight years.” However after a few moments of looking at each other and chatting Danny tells us that “we will start without Richard, and hopefully he’ll pick it up.” Mickey Dale, the keyboard player, took the lead as the song started, “talking” and gesturing Rich through the chords as Danny and the crowd had a massive singalong.
There were many laughs from the band and it was great to see them enjoying themselves – especially as it came to guitar solo time and Danny suggested that “All watch Rich this will be interesting” followed by him wiping his brother’s brow after he completed a fumbled version of the solo. These sorts of ropey moments were endearing and fun and also showed a band comfortable onstage and at ease with the intimacy of their small crowd.
The gig finished with ‘Retread’ and ‘Fireworks’ which were great to hear live after such a long absensce, if they were slightly low and a bit flat. It may be that there were times he couldn’t hear himself in the monitor (but at no point was he signalling to the sound guy to fix anything), or simply that after eight years hiatus Danny needs a little more time to stretch his vocals and get used to touring. I hope it’s something simple, as Embrace are brilliant live and the new songs are so very promising.
Here is ‘A Thief On My Island’ which I found on YouTube to help you make up your own mind about the vocals.