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                                                                                           ABERDEEN

 

Back in 1998, we didn’t have broadband internet or mobile phones – but what we did have was great albums.

It was the year that saw the release of brilliant records by the likes of the Beastie Boys, Pulp and Idlewild – and also a 14-track offering from Yorkshire indie band Embrace.

To mark 20 years since The Good Will Out first hit the shelves of Our Price, Woolworth and HMV, the five piece decided last year to learn the chords, riffs and vocals once again ahead of a UK tour in which they are playing the entire album in order.

Luckily for nostalgic fans of 90s alternative music like myself, Aberdeen was the first of 10-day tour (six of which are sold out) so last night was an as-yet exclusive look and listen to what the lads have been cooking up.

It’s fair to say frontman Danny McNamara was very nervous for the first few tunes, but any apprehension he had was put to bed by the enthusiasm of the packed house – who knew every word to every song.

Between songs, Danny joked that, back in 1998, people used to buy physical CDs rather than rely on Spotify and he asked the crowd: “Does anyone remember cassettes?”

Big favourites such as Come Back To What You Know, Fireworks and the album title track got the fans singing along in their hundreds, in the stalls and on the balcony, and smiles were to be seen everywhere. Unsurprisingly, it was an older audience, but it was refreshing to be at a concert where people were more interested in enjoying the moment than recording it.

Richard McNamara’s guitar on Now You’re Nobody was a personal favourite and Mickey Dale’s keyboard in That’s All Changed Forever was also very special.

Before it was time to go, there was time for Embrace to show off hits from some of their other six studio albums, such as Gravity and Ashes – and a release of red and white ticker tape was a real finishing touch.

It is the first time I’ve seen the Music Hall for a standing show and the acoustics and atmosphere were spot on – as were the band.

On this evidence, the rest of their tour will be a spine-tingling trip down memory lane Embrace –

 

                                     GLASGOW

The Good Will Out 21st Anniversary Tour With support from Hurricane #1 Barrowlands Ballroom, Glasgow March 6th 2019 Embrace have embarked on a UK Tour to celebrate 21 years since the release of their seminal debut album, the era defining The Good Will Out. Their second tour date; Embrace took centre stage on the hugely iconic Scottish venue – Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom. Embrace, forming in 1990, are brothers Danny (singer) and Richard McNamara (guitar), Steve Firth (bassist), Mickey Dale (keys) and Mike Heaton (drums). Embrace have released seven studio albums including If You’ve Never Been (2001) and This New Day (2006), and have now hit the road to celebrate 21 years since the release of debut album The Good Will Out (1998). Accompanied by an onslaught of fast pulsating white and red strobes, and with an imposing illuminated E.M.B.R.A.C.E stage backdrop, the headline band crashed into their Barrowlands set with their massive hit All You Good Good People. This anthemic song had the impassioned crowd singing in their hundreds, uplifting the spirits of the Barrowlands- this is why the good, good people of Glasgow are here tonight! The rousing ballad My Weakness is None of Your Business floated into one of the greatest (ever) British rock tracks, in my opinion, Come Back to What You Know; the earworm melody drilling deep in, this intimate track shows just how distinctively good Danny McNamara’s vulnerable vocals really are. Clearly enjoying being back at the Barrowlands (having played there 9 times!), Danny was interacting, jumping around and working the stage with modest confidence. The band showed humility, sharing the love with fans….‘We’re all one big family’ remarked Danny to a joyous crowd, who then lapped up tracks ‘One Big Family’, ‘Higher Sights’ and ‘Retread’. Acknowledging that their crowd may have aged somewhat since their debut release now 21 years ago, Danny’s dulcet tones commented… ‘there’s a few more bald heads out there…’ Opening with a whistle scream, I Want The World saw Danny and Richard share vocals and the band settle into the groove. Joking with the crowd before moving into ‘You’ve Got To Say Yes’ (not performed live in nearly 20 years!) transported us back to original Brit Pop days. The crowd was illuminated with the glow of mobile phones during Fireworks; what did we do in 1998 without video cameras in our pockets and instant social media uploads? Next up was the gloriously disorienting distorted feedback of ‘Last Gas’. And then the tears came with That’s All Changed Forever; stunning keys from Mickey Dale poignantly emphasising the emotion that this song is weighed down with. With a sea of happy, smiley people- the crowd immersed itself in the beauty and romance of the curiously dreamy Now You’re Nobody. Once again glowing in the sunshine of their life, Embrace finished their 21st Anniversary set with album closer The Good Will Out; cajoling the crowd into singing at the top of their voices to a fanfare of coloured confetti bursting from the Barrowlands stars and spreading far… this track closed an awesome show well worth the 21 year wait! But wait, always generous, the band treated fans to an encore of 5 songs…the fast tempo upbeat pounding beats of ‘Refugees’, ‘Follow You Home’, ‘Never’ (Embrace joined by the soulful, heartfelt voice of Nicole), ‘Gravity’ and ‘Ashes’…with the full capacity crowd suitably cranked up to an energetic high, big thanks were given to fans for being on this special Embrace journey – this nostalgic tour is wrapped up in a big sentimental bow. It was a meaningful experience both for fans and the band- one of passion and hope. With Embrace coming together and bowing to a hugh Glasgow applause, Danny was clearly emotional – ‘Thank you very much Glasgow!! I fucking love that! See you soon…’ Judging by the Glasgow reaction Embrace will be warmly welcomed back in a heart beat.

                                                                           SHEFFIELD 

It was 1997 and I was sitting on the grass in the glorious sunshine just outside the Radio One stage at the now defunct ‘T In The Park’ festival.

“Who’s on next” I asked my mate Paul.  “Some band that sound like Oasis” he said swilling from his plastic pint glass.  Paul was enjoying the beer and sunshine a bit too much and given he was wearing a ‘Menswear’ t-shirt  I decided not to let his lethargic dismissiveness put me off.  Plus, in ’97 I still quite liked Oasis, so I grabbed my beer and took a stroll inside.

I’ve always been glad I did.

Inside that sweaty humid tent were the five men of Embrace and they sounded as confident and assured as any of the festival headline acts.   More importantly however, they played music that immediately resonated with me. Maybe the beer and the sun played a part but the melodies, performance and attitude struck a chord with me.  Everything was just right and ultimately it was that performance that led me here tonight.

Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom!  

It’s unbelievably 22 years later and this same band, with the same line-up are on tour celebrating the 21st anniversary of their debut album; ‘The Good Will Out’.  

A Glasgow crowd likes to pride it’s self in being the loudest on any tour and a Barrowland crowd is usually the loudest of all the city’s venues.  Tonight was going be no exception.

The band walk out to a sold out crowd during the swirling percussion, strings and guitars that’s immediately recognisable as the intro of the LP we’re all here to celebrate.  The euphoric applause and cheers don’t have time to subside before ‘All You Good, Good People’ kicks in.  This song might be more than 20 years old and a constant in their set but as the crowd chant every word back at the band it feels like yesterday since its release.  As the first song reaches its spiralling crescendo, the crowd unify again with a chorus of deafening backing vocals.

This was often the song they’d close their main set with, an emphatic and entrenched sing-a-long that leaves your ears ringing and voice rasping.   It was going to be interesting to see how it works the other way round.

This album starts impressively with four singles and it’s no surprise that with ‘My Weakness Is None Of Your Business’ and ‘Come Back To What You Know’ the crowd continue in the same vein.   Albeit with slightly less stress on the 60 year old wooden ballroom floor.  If anything it becomes more apparent how many people know every single word of these decades old tracks.

‘One Big Family’ allows guitarist Richard, to take over lead vocals for the first time tonight and he raises the roof again before the heartbreakingly emotive fan favourites of ‘Higher Sights’ and ‘Retread’.  These are the type of songs that Embrace became known for; sincere, relatable and hugely melodic.

These slower tracks allow the room to collectively take a breath, compose itself and enjoy a a couple of tracks that don’t always make it on the live tours.  

The boot stomping indie guitar gems, ‘I Want The World’ and ‘You’ve Got to Say Yes’, are up next before making way for Mickey Dale to take the spotlight with the piano driven Fireworks.  This was the second single to be released by the band and from what I’ve seen tonight it still has the ability to make grown men hug each other whilst attempting five part harmonies.  Few albums have songs with this amount of emotion, warmth and heart but ‘The Good Will Out’ is blessed with several and it would be genuinely difficult to pick a favourite.

We are not done with the big guitars just yet though and ‘Last Gas’ gives the crowd one more chance to punish the dancehall floor with its crunching distorted guitars and relentless drums.

When you get to this point you know you’re nearing the end and ‘That’s All Changed Forever’ and “Now You’re Nobody” would be befitting to close any album, understated, melancholic and beautifully arranged but here they’re simply the prelude to the true finale.   ‘The Good Will Out’, is that apex and there aren’t many songs from my lifetime that make me feel as uplifted or as emotional as this track does.  Lyrically it’s as perfect as it is profound and despite the lamenting nature, the arrangement lifts the brooding and reflective tone into a masterful and simplistic mantra laden chorus.  A chorus that when performed live with a crowd like this, can feel like our generation’s ‘Hey Jude’.

Embrace have been crafting their music for over two decades.  Perfectly formed anthems that unite strangers, songs that make you punch the air and choruses that have you bouncing two feet off the floor so they were always going to make time for a greatest hits encore.

Their return to the stage was predominantly made up of singles from their last two albums including ’Never’; a poignant duet where Danny is joined by Nicole Smith from the electronic pop outfit ‘EEVAH’.  The night draws to a close with ‘Gravity’ and ends on ‘Ashes’ which has almost everyone in the room jumping in time to Mike Heaton’s snare drum.  It was the perfect closure to an incredible celebration.

Embrace have poured their souls into their music and I think that’s why the crowd’s response and participation is so important to them, especially tonight where it’s understood that that the fans are as much a part of this incredible journey as the band.  

They continue to celebrate the anniversary of one of the fastest selling debut records of all time during the remaining dates of this near sold out UK tour.  

There is also a special one off performance on 28th June in the Piece Hall in Halifax where they will be joined by ‘Reverend and the Makers’, ‘Sleeper’ and ‘Hope & Social’ for one final soiree.

If you can get tickets then I recommend you go and enjoy a classic night of guitars, nostalgia and anthem.....ALAN WHITFIELD

Everyone has that first big breakup album don’t they. On reflection my first breakup wasn’t even a breakup, it was just a rejection. The heartache is long gone but my love for The Good Will Out, the debut album from Huddersfield heroes Embrace, stubbornly remains. The opportunity to see that record played in its entirety is an intriguing one…

Embrace take to the stage adorned with their name literally up in lights. As with Ash’s Tim Wheeler and Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Danny McNamara of Embrace never seems to age. Indeed, as his peers become older and balder, McNamara’s hair only becomes more luxurious.

We are here for the 21st anniversary of The Good Will Out, an album that was a monster hit back in the ’90s. The band play the album from start to finish, in order, to an fawning and incredibly loud Sheffield audience. All You Good Good People is a fitting set opener and it sets the tone for an evening of anthems, pounding drums and massive choruses. My Weakness is None of Your Business is similarly well received with the band clearly delighted with the crowd reaction before Come Back To What You Know finds Sheffield in good voice. As one of Britpop’s most recognisable anthems, the latter song is treated with the reverence that it deserves.

One Big Family keeps things moving as possibly the most upbeat track on the album, before a stunning Retread slows things down once more. Fireworks is one of the great lost songs of that era and it sounds beautiful here with Danny McNamara acknowledging the lovelorn lyrics by declaring ‘this is NOT a wedding song!’

A poignant That’s All Changed Forever has knees weak and hearts aflutter before the first part of the set comes to a conclusion with a stunning rendition of the title track The Good Will Out.

Embrace are an odd one really in as much as they seemingly had two careers. It felt like they were finished after the release of third record If You’ve Never Been before they came roaring back with the wildly successful Out of Nothing three years later. Embrace never truly felt like my band any more after their comeback and while Refugees and Follow You Home still sound majestic, I don’t have the same emotional connection with those songs as I do with the band’s older material. This is my fault, not their’s however, and by the time we come to the Chris Martin penned Gravity and now traditional set closer Ashes I am back on board.

As the band bow to the audience a feeling of unity and warmth exudes throughout Sheffield Academy. Embrace love. Embrace hope. Embrace Danny McNamara and his luxurious hair. Embrace leave the stage as truly one of Yorkshire’s finest live acts. The good good people have listened. See you next time lads.

                                                            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.

                                                                                                              LEEDS

IT WAS in a sweaty club in Lancaster on a chilly night in February that a bunch of long-haired Yorkshire lads (and one with a short back and sides) stormed into my life — and sparked a musical love affair which is still going strong 22 years later.

The raw energy of All You Good People People alongside the tenderness and vulnerability of Fireworks was a truly seductive combination, and I’ve never got tired of that unique form of intoxication.

From Danny McNamara’s ability to make the simplest lyrical statement seem so vital and urgent to the band’s way with a melody, alchemy with a chorus and mastery of their instruments, there’s just something endlessly compelling about Embrace.

In many ways, they’ve sound tracked my adult life more than any other band.

After a surprise and prolonged hiatus, the comeback album and tour of 2014 seemed too good to be true, so the chance to witness The Good Will Out — an album I looked forward to for more than a year, tantalised by titbits in the NME as its release date seemed to be put back again and again — being performed live and in full was unmissable.

Leeds’ O2 Academy was a great venue for the closing date of the tour.

Short on view-obstructing pillars and other such obstacles and offering a great view from all sides, not to mention kitted out with a balcony for assorted McNamara family members and others, it also seems to have great acoustics (in my technically unsophisticated view).

All in all, a top spot for a final run-through of one of the greatest debut albums ever, a collection which has resonated so hard with so many people that AYGGP is hardly ever off Absolute Radio 90s and fans have been clamouring to hear album tracks like Retread and Higher Sights for the best part of a generation.

With anticipation at fever pitch, surely the only possible outcome was anti-climax? Surely they couldn’t do the drama, the youthful energy, the sensitivity and the verve of that seminal, string-laden sensation justice so many years on?

Not a bit of it. Last year’s homecoming was always going to take some topping, but Embrace pulled it off.

I have a lot of time for last year's Love is a Basic Need — All That Remains and Snake Oil are probably in my all-time top ten — but you can’t look past TGWO for absolute classics.

There’s a reason why the lads close every gig with the title track, why AYGGP makes for a great set opener and why Come Back to What You Know gets an airing so often — they’re just unshakably great anthems that get the heart racing and stir the soul.

One Big Family, I Want the World (never a particular favourite of mine) and Last Gas all sounded immense, each of them vocally backed by crowd leaning towards the middle-aged (myself included).

Where TGWO really stands up, though, is in the lyricism and musicianship of its ballads.

And if I thought Higher Sights, Retread and the three minutes of heart-breaking perfection that is Fireworks were as good as it could get, that all changed with, well, That’s All Changed Forever.

The buzz around the brilliant Track 12 — appearing on the LP way after lesser bands would have run out of steam — has been growing all tour and Leeds showed why.

Grown men and women, people with jobs, kids, responsibilities, united in chorus for a moment of musical majesty led by their long-haired, charismatic ring-master.

And if that sounds over the top, you should have seen the beaming faces of the people around me in the stalls or on the balcony.

Not only could we not believe this was happening, we couldn’t believe we there actually there to witness it, to experience it, to be part of it.

TGWO itself, introduced by a shower of ticker tape, proved the perfect send-off to a show which was anything but a routine run through.

 

The combination of a band on form and clearly thoroughly enjoying themselves (although you never really know with Steve Firth!) and a crowd hurling itself into every lyric, lapping up every chord and feeling every beat from Mike Heaton's drumkit made for a gig which was everything I hoped it would be.

(I could’ve lived without the guy in front of me partly blocking my view of the stage by filming the first five songs in their entirety on his phone, but you can’t have everything). Where Embrace stand apart from their peers, though, is that they are still stacking up cracking tracks 20 years on, as demonstrated by a fabulous handful of encores.

Refugees arrived as fully-formed favourite five years ago and will surely be a setlist fixture forever.

I’ve always loved the way Danny hangs back, letting brother Rick have his moment in the full beam of the spotlight as lead singer, before emerging stage front for the surging finale.

It's also great to hear him making a point of singling out each of his fellow bandmates in turn for specific acclaim.

Never is another special track and Nicole Hope Smith, who once again showed she is destined for big things in her own right, is a special singer.

Probably the highlight of the whole night, though, was Gravity, Mickey Dale’s piano coming to the fore once again as the swaying mass of the Academy crowd joined forces for one last melodic sing-along, before a knee-straining, bouncing outing for Ashes.

And with that, it was over.

As the dust — and the ticker tape — settles on a tour which has seen diehards criss-crossing the country, mugs and posters being snapped up and battle given over which crowd can sing the loudest, it’s worth pausing for a moment to consider where we go from here (and I don’t just mean Halifax Piece Hall in the summer).

For the bands behind many much-loved 1990s debuts, a performance of their breakthrough album could be but a brief return to larger venues — a nostalgic respite from a circuit of smaller arenas, acoustic spots and months plugging away in a bid to recreate long lost magic.

Embrace may have their side projects but they'd be mad to pass up the chance to repeat exhilarating, joyous nights like this, whether to present new material or for a Drawn From Memory tour in 2021 (yes please!).

If coming back to what you know can be this much fun, who wouldn't want to do it all over again? Michael Upton

If there’s an air of triumph about Embrace as they take to the stage at the O2 Academy Leeds tonight it’s a self-belief born out of long-fought and hard-earned victories rather than any sense of cockiness.

For more than two decades the five-piece from Halifax and Bradford have flown the flag for anthemic alternative rock that’s unafraid to reveal its sensitive side, initially flying in the face of Britpop braggadocio then later against a record industry that often disregarded them despite their obvious passion and the quality of their song writing. Performing their debut album The Good Will Out in its entirety to mark its 21st anniversary, they accompany its calling card, All You Good Good People, with cannons of ticker tape and streamers while singer Danny McNamara holds his arms aloft in salute to a sold-out house. The audience greets it and all the dozen numbers that ensue the same, enthusiastically singing along to his every word. Come Back To What You Know and One Big Family sound enormous, the former cosily familiar while the latter is given an added sting by the ferocity of guitarist Richard McNamara, bassist Steve Firth and drummer Mike Heaton’s playing. After Higher Sights, Danny leads the crowd in a rendition of Happy Birthday to his seven-year-old niece, who is sat up on the balcony. This is the first song we wrote when we realised we did not sound like anybody else,” he says by way of introduction to Retread, one of the album’s lesser-known gems. I Want The World is introduced by Richard, tongue in cheek, as “the first time we realised we sounded a bit like Oasis” but its full-on rockiness sits well alongside You’ve Got To Say Yes.
The down tempo Fireworks provides a change of place before Danny enjoins everyone to sing the “ba ba bas” in the chorus of Last Gas. Danny asks his parents to take a bow before “our new favourite song off this album”, That’s All Changed Forever, whose first verse is led by Mickey Dale’s delicate piano playing before swelling into another memorable anthem. By the album’s title track the celebrations reach their crescendo with another blast of ticker tape and streamers. Intriguingly they encore with Refugees, whose electronic throb sounds distinctly contemporary, before settling back into the classicism of Follow You Home. Nicole Hope Smith from the band Eevah duets effectively with Danny during Never before the band bid a powerful goodbye with a double salvo of Gravity and Ashes.

 

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