Embrace: The Roundhouse, London

For some bands, anniversary album gigs serve merely as financial gain and play on people's nostalgia. However, there are exceptions, where the pure spirits of rock n roll find a new lease of life. Primal Scream's re-imagining of 'Screamadelica', eight years on is still the benchmark. Incorporating the best pieces of club culture post '91 into an album set that launched a lot of them, it was a revolving door of Balearic fantasy wonderland past and present.

This past Friday night, Embrace played to a sold out Roundhouse in Camden to mark the 21st birthday of their debut 'The Good Will Out'. Now, they may not have pushed the boundaries like the Primals, but, there was a humility and a connection with flowing from stage to crowd and back again that few have achieved.

This connection reached its summit at the albums mid-point. 'Higher Sights' and 'Retread', are often overlooked for their albums opening three anthems 'All You Good Good People, 'My Weakness Is None Of Your Business', and 'Come Back What To What You Know'. On this night though, it's clear, Embrace fans have all been living similar lives. Such is there power to evoke memories of heartache and find inspiration to carry on, they serve as collective comfort blanket.

Danny McNamara is like a man possessed singing “Will you fight? / Let's see you fight”. There is power oozing from him rarely seen in front men, especially ones so successful. He still has that “one of you” tag about him. Humble and appreciative to the plight of the crowd, he carries everyone along with him to another plain.

Another of the overlooked numbers for live sets is 'That's All Changed Forever'. When you have classics like 'Fireworks' and 'Good Will Out' in your armoury, there can be no complaints for not seeing it on stage. On a night when people are inevitably looking back to the the late 90s, its sentiment carries extra poignancy. It could have only been written by those in the throws of youth. Pleading and defiant simultaneously, this tale of “you'll see” post break up is undoubtedly invoking that first love or the one that got away. It's even harder not to raise a wry smile at almost vengeful last line “Cause you don't know better than me”. We probably didn't.

The credibility Embrace carried through the set was largely due to their two quality albums since their re-emergence in 2014. They didn't need tonight, financially or critically. Danny's reaction to 'Retread; was “oh I forgot how much I like this one”. Despite being key to their success, it was though he won the lottery and got to front Embrace tonight.

Embrace - Love Is A Basic Need

Embrace’s 2014 eponymous titled album was a remarkable departure from their epic gospel-indie sound. It took their established euphoria to new pastures and for once, shut the critics up. So where would brothers McNamara take us this time?

To coin an early Embrace lyric, they have ‘come back to what you know’. From start to finish, ‘Love Is A Basic Need’ is the archetypal Embrace sound. The slow emotive build to a crescendo of gospel singers and big choruses. Detractors will say it’s formulaic, but, few bands can define themselves this clearly.

‘The Finish Line’, ‘Snake Oil’, ‘My Luck Comes In Three’ and the duet with Kerri Watt ‘Never’, are all candidates to soundtrack some talentless no marks journey from X Factor audition to the judges sex dungeon round. Their ability to conjure rags to riches images to such a consistent level is admirable.

Lead of single ‘Wake Up Call’ is the pick of the bunch. As their recent tour proved, it’s a huge sing-along number, to the point that they open their sets with it. Fervent proof that older bands can still deliver radio friendly bangers!

Richard fronted songs usually offer something different on Embrace albums. On ‘Where You Sleeping’ though, it’s more a case of swapping Danny out for Richard. It’s another track where subtle guitar riffs build towards an upsurge of sentiment.

The familiarity of the album is both its up and downside. Twenty years on, some will say old hat, die hard fans will say a return to their roots. What cannot be called into question though, is their authenticity. This is not impassioned indie for the sake of it.

Embrace: Shepherds Bush Empire, London

The bravado of their 1998 breakthrough may have dissipated but, Embrace, are as good live now than ever before. A calmness exudes from the ever beautiful Danny McNamara and it radiates through Shepherds Bush Empire.

Embrace have never been recognised for cult of status. They don't have the Charlatans tag of 'underrated' or Shed Seven's 'underdog. Nevertheless, not many bands can open with a new song (Wake Up Call) 20 years on and be greeted with a singalong.

It's become accustom for Richard McNamara to have his own section in the set nowadays. Despite all the early classic early songs, the moment Richard takes the spotlight, the anticipation of 'Refugees' hangs in the air. Dancing is inevitable with its post-apocalyptic rave production but, the brutality of the lyrics, in the wake of yet another chemical attack in Syria stops most in their tracks. A rare outing of 'Drawn From Memory' preceded this, by the end of his section, an overwrought of audience were delighted to sink their goosebumps into the anthemic 'Someday'.

Classics 'Save Me', 'Ashes' and 'Gravity' are given an airing. However, its during 'Come Back To What You Know' though the greatness of their past is really highlighted. Sometimes, songs become the fans as much as the bands and this is one. Especially, as Embrace fans age, the tumultuous romantic failure of the lyrics carts everyone back to that first love or to the unrequited love of teenage years.

It's clear at Shepherds Bush, Embrace are far from done!

Image source: http://www.flickofthefinger.co.uk/author/jason/