Live Review // Embrace, London Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Riding high on new album Love Is A Basic Need, the McNamara brothers and their band of down-to-earth dynamos regale all the good, good people of London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Sam Lambeth reviews.

If there’s one thing Embrace have never done is subtlety. From their origins, rising from the burnt ashes of Britpop in the late nineties, their brand of big-hearted anthems swelled with strings and Danny McNamara’s brooding howl. Even when they seemingly crashed and burned themselves – before their unexpected ascension with the globe-gobbling Out of Nothing (2004) – it was done with widescreen beauty. At the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, it’s clear they have lost none of that bombast.

Opener Wake Up Call bursts into life with gorgeous three-part harmonies, taking the Yorkshire group’s usual penchant for arena-ready anthems and bathing it in Fleet Foxes-esque folk. New album Love Is A Basic Need is a stately chugger built around McNamara’s croon, and the barnstorming Rabbit Hole and the swaying title track almost drown in their over-earnestness. But any genuine fan of Embrace – and on this evidence, there are a lot of them – understands that U2-sized swaths of rock are par for the course, and it’s a skill they pull of immeasurably.

All You Good Good People and Come Back To What You Know were bold, melodically rich stompers when released in 1998, giving Embrace an instant platform. Twenty years on, they’re surprisingly dispatched with early on in the set, but have lost none of their potency – two songs in and the crowd are singing back every word with breathless abandon. The title track from 2000’s underrated Drawn From Memory gives Danny’s bro Richard the chance to show off his stately pipes, while Gravity and Ashes – the two tracks that returned Embrace to the big leagues, with a little help from fellow big dreamer Chris Martin – close the set with sheer emotion. Elsewhere, the rollicking Save Me, pounding Follow You Home and sweeping majesty of Nature’s Law give the audience – mostly comprised of loved-up thirty-somethings thankful for a night off watching the kids – plenty of emotional ammo.

By the time the group close with The Good Will Out, there’s barely a dry eye in the house. Sometimes going over the top is the only way to get through.


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