London Brixton Academy

They never get it [i]quite[/i] right...

Hey, it’s a party. And you know what parties are like. First there’s the early arrivals, who witness Morgan’s breezy moog pop and react a bit like you do when the hosts put on their favourite music to gauge a response. With indifference, leading to louder talking. Oh well.

Then we get the unwelcome guest – comedian Johnny Vegas arrives and seems simply intent on winding up the beer-swilling masses (and it’s VERY male in here) who have gathered for the arrival of their heroes. He challenges an audience member to an arm wrestle, with a £200 prize, and loses. Said audience member then pulls the portly laughmeister’s pants down. He reacts with more obscenities. Scarily, his contempt seems real. Vegas makes his exit having done what he intended. It’s [I]seething[/I] in here.

However, there’s simply no way Embrace are gonna have any such problems. Amble on, bellow out a few anthems, and the pint glasses and lighters are gonna be raised in unison as this most confusing and contradictory of groups celebrate the end of their ‘Drawn From Memory’ tour. They are the hosts with the party anthems, and they’ve waited until everyone’s nicely oiled before launching into them.

So it’s hit after hit – A messy ‘One Big Family’ (Oh, aye), a clunky

‘You’re Not Alone’, an awkwardly affecting ‘My Weakness Is None Of Your

Business’, a rousing ‘All You Good Good People’. But, curiously enough, although the partisan hordes (who, as one punter points out, have never really gotten over The Stone Roses splitting up) are reacting to each with a righteous fervour that inspires feelings of both eye-opening astonishment and baffling incomprehension, it’s only when Embrace call a halt to the hollow bombast that their true power is finally unleashed. ‘Dry Kids’ is tender and huggable, while ‘That’s All Changed Forever”s piano-led simplicity is evidence enough to suggest that if Embrace – ahem – embraced this deft, pared-down approach a little more their future could be bright. However, when they do play a couple of newies, they’re anthems which yet again expose the fragility of Danny McNamara’s voice. It’s fine when he’s underlining the nakedness and raw emotive power of set-closer ‘Fireworks’ or ‘Retread’, but his belt-it-out-and-hope-for-the-best approach on likes of the Cure-esque ‘It’s Over’ is reminiscent of a wounded buffalo whimpering helplessly as he’s drowned out by brother Richard’s solid trad shapes.

The evening ends on a celebratory note – during the encore the band are joined on their cover of ‘3 Is The Magic Number’ by the man who originally wrote and performed the song, Bobby Dorough. Strange that a song about multiplication tables should be the most rock ‘n’ roll event on offer all night – but then that’s Embrace for you. They never get it [I]quite[/I] right – but that’s something to aim for, eh? For now though, the party’s over.

Alan Woodhouse