The last visit to the area saw Embrace headlining Belladrum in 2006. They were indeed riding high, after the success of single ‘Nature’s Law’ and their fifth album ‘This New Day’. However, it is fair to say that Danny Macnamara’s voice was nowhere near it’s best at Bella and whilst pushed along by a sea of goodwill, and the band’s obvious unwillingness to let their fans down, the performance was nowhere near their best.
Eight years later album number six is now in the bag and whilst the temptation would be to ask where it all went wrong for the Brighouse boys. This, though, is a band that have previously come back from obscurity and it’s disappointments and perhaps the better questions is, could they do it again?
Without doubt the pregame was very positive, new single ‘Refugees’ has been receiving a good response and the opening gig for this short Scottish tour, at King Tuts, had received a five star review from the Sunday Mail.
First things first though, support for the evening came from Colin Macleod, who has also certainly experienced the highs and lows of the music business. Colin is very much back on the scene. Indeed, his support slot for Embrace comes fast off the back of another high profile slot, touring with Newton Faulkner.
Colin’s gigs have been well documented on this website, and our admiration for the former Boy who Trapped the Sun cannot be disguised. Tonight his skill as a singer/songwriter could only be matched by.his sublime management of the audience, whether that be entering into banter with the crowd or relenting to their pleas to play a second cover of the night by playing ‘Dancing in the Dark’.
So on the eve of the release of the ‘Refugees’ EP, Embrace took to the stage as the final part a five date Scottish tour. There was certainly a substantial gathering for the boys, and the audience, in its majority (save for an idiot in the crowd who couldn’t find his village) was somewhere between partisan and fervent.
“It’s fucking good to be back.” Danny had declared at King Tuts a few days earlier, and yes you couldn’t sense that his enthusiasm had lapsed by the time he had reached Inverness, even as he comes on stage armed with a solitary drumstick.
Lapping up the attention of the crowd at every opportunity, Danny could not hide his passion for the adulation of the crowd. Indeed Danny made special mention to a group of fans that had joined them for all of the recent dates on the tour.
‘Protection’, the first track from the forthcoming album, started proceedings with a heavy bass line and complemented by strobe lighting fell somewhere between New Order and Bloc Party, a departure albeit with the unavoidable and reliable choruses thrown in for good measure.
Third song in and we are on to the third track of the new album, ‘Refugees’, and it is Richard, not his sibling, stealing the show with more consistent vocals. The track is equally, and undeniably, Embrace and impressive, so too is the audience’s response who have obviously been doing their homework. Unlike some occasions at The Ironworks, the crowd show an appreciation of the newer material, perhaps an indication that the new tracks are not straying that far from the familiar, or that the crowd simply love Embrace?
Hits follow, ‘Nature’s Law’ perhaps losing it’s way a little, followed by ‘Someday’. Each share their sing-along moments but it is the audience singing along to the chorus of another new track ‘Follow You Home’ that surprises the most in the evening. The track is going to be the band’s next release. “Do you like this one?” Danny asks although he already knows the answer, “I think it’s going to be a big one” he adds.
‘Ashes’ brings back far too many memories of hours wasted on FIFA (2006). “Now watch me rise up and leave all the ashes you made out of me” seems particularly poignant and perhaps relevant to the evening’s proceedings. It is ‘A Thief on My Island’, the last track on the new album that, with ‘Protection’, bookends the evening’s main set very well, with both tunes holding many similarities.
Last track of the encore is another singalong ‘The Good Will Out’ which emphasises ,without doubt, the strength of the component parts of Embrace.When Danny leaves the rest of the band on stage, there is more than enough time to reflect on this, with Richard’s guitar skills and increased vocal responsibilities standing out on the evening. The night is not without it’s flaws,and like that night at Belladrum, it would be unfair not to mention that Danny appeared to struggle vocally with some of the songs.
Embrace, however, are a band that are looking forward, the new material has a contemporary but familiar feel that will please the strong support that the band have garnered over the years. A case of ” come back to what you know”?
More photos of Embrace at The Ironworks.