Shepherds Bush Empire

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:

British Sea Power - Shepherds Bush Empire

BSP’s new album ‘Let The Dancers Inherit The Party’, has reawakened everyone’s love for the 6 piece with its social comment and string of pop anthems. So, this tour surely could not fail.

BSP have always bred a respectful and loyal following, so, unlike most bands 6 albums deep, the new songs were a treat not an excuse for a piss. That said, 6 of the opening 7 being new tracks dimmed the mood after opening with the protest banger ‘Who’s In Control’. The pop prowess of ‘Bad Bohemian’ and the introspective Nick Drake-esque ‘Electrical Kittens’ are destined to remain in the set for a long time.

When BSP get into 5th gear with ‘Lights Out For Darker Skies’ the west London crowd spring into action. Their unique spirit rises to the surface as Martin Noble unleashes his brand of Springsteen meets punk rock.

Conspicuous by their absence are tracks from their classic album ‘Open Season’. The fact that BSP can pull off such a top draw show without classics ‘Please Stand Up’ or ‘It Ended On an Oily Stage’ is a testament to their quality, but what is it a brave step too far?

One note of Abi Fry’s violin on set closer ‘The Great Skua’ gave an emphatic answer of no. The colossal beauty and warmth was enough to think ‘fuck the encore, it’s never topping that'. Perhaps only their early firecracker ‘Carrion’ came close.

One thing is for certain, where there are dancing polar and grizzly bears, there will be a group of indie and punk lovers willing to cherish one of Britain’s best kept secrets.