Embrace // Foundry Sheffield // 14.12.16
Ever since listening to, and falling in love with my favourite album of all time, Embrace’s self-titled Embrace, I’ve been keen to catch a gig of theirs, especially after unfortunately managing to consistently miss tours and their renowned, award winning, Secret festival. Luckily for me, I got assigned a journalistic venture to review their live set this December. Not a problem, I always believe the first time you see a band is mainly spent assessing if they measure up – whether you intend to do that or not. The times you see them after, are for pleasure. But not in this instance. I jumped straight to the pleasure.
Walking into the Foundry was like stumbling upon some strange cult. And I mean that in the way that it wasn’t full of your usual gig goers, or maybe not the types I see at gigs. Here, (aside from a few likely lads, obviously trying to live 90s’ nostalgia) stood the most ordinary looking people, comfortably sitting along the middle age line, grouped together for one reason. What with New Order thumping along in the background and the gloom and dimmed lights of the basement, it felt as though something kept as an incredible secret for decades was about to be discovered.
Embrace came on stage, on time, and kicked off their set with ‘All You Good Good People’ from The Good Will Out, which felt almost euphoric. The band was tight and the crowd were revelling in the incredible atmosphere. Later, vocalist Danny McNamara stated that these gigs were for the purpose of Embrace’s love of touring, which showed. This was followed by the synth tinged upbeat ‘In The End’ from the latest album, and it was refreshing to see Embrace had created a good mixture of songs to play from albums spanning their time as a band. Also playing ‘Follow You Home’ from Embrace, which illustrated from the crowd response that the die-hard fans Embrace have are still very much loyal.
There were plenty of gems in the set, a certain one unearthed by a front row fan, recognising the soulful anthem ‘Come Back To What You Know’ from the first chord, and the later songs punctuated with chants for ‘Ashes’, the song that was boosted in the charts from a fan campaign – obviously a dearly loved number by the cult of Embrace fans. The band also revealed they were going to play a request, the softly evocative ‘Gravity’.
Alongside Embrace playing a selection of their countless hits, they also showcased their brand new song, ‘Love Is A Basic Need’. Danny teaching the crowd the chorus before they began, interspersing with “every new song is an old song you haven’t heard yet”. Completely true, as after one rendition, it felt as comfortable as if it were sitting in Embrace’s back catalogue, a sure sign that that good things from new music are still to come.
As pleasing as the set list was, the audience also got heaps of charm from McNamara and plenty of intervals of chatter between songs. Danny is at ease with a group of strangers as he is with his own band, as though his sole purpose was to be a frontman – with plenty of off-the-cuff gay references, asking the crowd what they thought of Richard McNamara’s beard as though talking to a friend. Not to mention the lovely vocal rambles of thoughts which seemed to pop into his head along the way, sharing it with the fans before him “the water in this bottle reminds me of that part in Jurassic Park..”, which was funny, but also melted the fourth wall that often stands between a band and their fans at gigs. It just felt like one big family.
Overall, the band were surprisingly tight, and extremely passionate, with the verve of an up-and-coming act, and not a sign of weariness. Every chord, drum beat and bass note resonated, every move was with purpose, and every member was clearly in love with the moment.