It’s never a question which band will win the night, but can the opening bands hold their own against the crowd-pleasing gravity of the headliners? In the Doves (pictured right) case, the answer is a resounding affirmative. Their crafted, breathy ballads are both powerfully beautiful and sneakily sad, filling up the half-full venue with solemn, passionate refrains so far removed from Doves‘ former incarnation as Manchester dance crew Sub Sub, it’s difficult to believe we are hearing the same band.
They end with the hauntingly epic ‘Cedar Rooms’ which more than confirms that given time, Doves could easily rival Embrace in the heart-melting stakes.
Ooberman (pictured left) are a very different story. They have no desire to stir emotions or garner head-nodding muso approval – they simply want to entertain, in the most superficial way they can. Singer Danny Popplewell bounces across the stage with a cheesy, histrionic grin, as the band ably reproduce the glossy pop glide of ‘Blossoms Falling’ and the sumptuous ‘Shorley Wall’. In another context this might be enough, but slotted between the seriousness of Doves and the sincerity of Embrace, Ooberman at times seem merely ridiculous.
It is, of course, Embrace‘s (pictured right) night – for not only is it their grand return to the live arena, but it is also a chance for them to road-test material from their forthcoming ‘Drawn From Memory’ LP.
They intersperse the new songs amongst the old, and the crowd greet every single one as though they are welcoming home long lost friends. After the storming salvo of ‘Last Gas’, they segue into new song ‘Yeah You’, an euphoric rush of guitar and spirited vocals that differs from their older material only in it’s heavier, more rock’n’roll attitude.
‘Save Me’ and ‘The Love It Takes’ are similar, slow-burning anthems that one can easily imagine joining ‘All You Good Good People’ as some of Embrace‘s most touching, rousing songs. Guitarist Richard takes over vocal duties on recent single ‘Hooligan’ while Danny plays kazoo, and after a poignant rendition of ‘Fireworks’, they finish with ‘The Good Will Out’, encouraging the audience to sing along as Danny holds the microphone up into the air with well-deserved pride. A triumph.