Now I’m going to be honest, Embrace isn’t a band that I know particularly well, The Good Will Out, released in 1998, is an album that I only really know a couple of tracks from, so I’m interested to see how it will sound 21 years on.
However, before we get to that it’s an opening from relative new comers Land Sharks.
Singer Mikey Shiraz, guitar Sam Wood, bass Steve Firth, drums and noise machine Mike Heaton
Following an altercation from earlier in the tour, the band have stepped in to replace Hurricane #1 and are doing so with an enormous amount of energy! They may not be an obvious act to support Embrace (even with two of their members) their style being completely different but they’re making every moment of it count.Bursting onto the stage in a leopard skin patterned jacket, Mikey Shiraz is having the time of his life! He’s all grins and the band appear to be on a mission to ensure that this crowd is revved up.
Land Sharks are clearly influenced by 70’s rock and their sound is Deep Purple meets Black Sabbath, with Mikey’s vocals raw and wild. There are a few bemused faces in the crowd, perhaps wondering what’s hit them.During their six song set Mikey manages to get the crowd chanting “Yorkshire” and sing Happy Birthday and whilst not a sing along band they most certainly have the O2 upbeat and raring to go. It’s a solid opening for such a new band and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more from them.
Brothers, singer Danny McNamara and guitarist Richard McNamara, bassist Steve Firth, keyboardist Mickey Dale and drummer Mike Heaton. Being Huddersfield lads, I know they’ll be in for a warm welcome and the crowd certainly proves more than friendly. Loud and enthusiastic it’s clear to see that there is true love in the O2! Having spoken to the people around me, some of whom have seen many of the shows already, I’m beginning to realise that Embrace is more than a band name it’s a feeling here. It’s a brave move to play an album in its entirety but that’s what we have and lead man Danny McNamara, looking as good as he did 21 years ago fills the stage with his presence almost as much as their huge illuminated E.M.B.R.A.C.E backdrop.
Opening with a confetti cannon, All You Good Good People, has the audience eager to go. Turning to watch the crowd I can see so much emotion and there’s barely a person not singing along. They slow it down for My Weakness Is None Of Your Business but the energy doesn’t diminish. Danny tells us that “Spotify are evil” before picking the pace back up into the crowd pleaser Come Back To What You Know, with brother Richard harmonising on vocals.
By now it’s more than apparent that being here tonight is something special, particularly as Danny has the crowd singing Happy Birthday to his seven year old niece before making his Mum & Dad stand up, much to the crowd’s delight. The band are on home turf and this is clear by their continued hype to make Leeds the loudest of the tour.
The paces slows again for Retread and it’s time for tears or hands in the air, everyone is just caught up in the raw emotion of the song. Richard tells the crowd “This is the first song we wrote where we realised we sounded like Oasis” and leads into the upbeat I Want The World.
Fireworks may not be the romantic song that everyone thinks but it’s beautiful all the same, with a strong melody and a poignancy that really pulls at the heart, combine that with the emotion from Danny and his vulnerable yet deceptively smooth voice. Leeds are in fine voice and belt out the well remembered Last Gas, without detracting at all from Danny’s haunting vocals or Richards inspiring guitar riffs. Mike Heaton & Steve Firth don’t appear to be showing any signs that this is their second gig of the evening as the energy just keep pouring off the stage, especially as they lead into “Our new favourite song of the album” That’s All Changed For Good, with incredible keyboard skills from Mickey Dale. As they come to the end of the album Danny gives it his all with Now you’re Nobody before the second cannon of the night explodes.
I might not be totally familiar with this album but judging from the crowd, I’m in a minority as The Good Will Out brings this part of the set to a close. As the band come back on to the stage Richard takes over with Refugee and the thundering bass & drums give the song its own heartbeat pounding across the arena. The band are bringing us back to the future with Follow You Home and Danny welcomes Nicole to the stage for a truly lovely duet in Never. Just when we’re thinking it can’t get any better, Gravity pulls on you and in this one moment Danny is holding the O2 in place. As they lead in to the final song of the night Ashes, Danny encourages Leeds to jump and you know that there’s nothing this crowd won’t do for him.
It may have been twenty one years but Embrace have breathed new life into The Good Will Out and this final night of the tour certainly goes out with a bang. A truly nostalgic journey that will no doubt see the live album being as big a hit as the original.
Review: Taryn Johnston
Photography: Simon Walker