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REVIEW: Embrace, Manchester O2 Ritz

Embrace. Picture: Lou Barber
Embrace. Picture: Lou Barber
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‘Right, hands up...who’s bought the album?’

Danny McNamara’s in playful mood, quizzing the sell-out crowd on who coughed up for their seventh album Love Is A Basic Need.

Around half the fans in the 1,500 capacity venue raise one arm aloft.

‘I blame Spotify...’ he laughs.

Vinyl, LP, download...whatever format they now use to reach their audience, after 20 years, Embrace continue to be the band who defied the post-Britpop slide into obscurity and proper jobs which befell their peers.

Love Is A Basic Need reached number five in the album charts with little or no airplay, a testament to the power of the internet and their own devoted fanbase.

Here we are treated to their career highlights and a healthy smattering of more recent songs.

Such is their back catalogue, no fewer than 10 Top 40 singles don’t get a look in on the setlist.

And unusually with our insatiable appetite for nostalgia, it’s those later songs that take the limelight here rather than those that catapulted them into our consciousness all those years ago.

Wake Up Call lights the blue touch paper before the near perfection of All You Good Good People transports the audience back to 1998, bootcut jeans and NME front covers.

Come Back To What You Know provides the first full singalong but it’s not until Where You Sleeping and Refugees - both sung by McNamara’s brother Richard - that this one hour 45 minute love-in really ignites.

Refugees, in particular, is magnificent, proving the sixth album’s dalliance with synthesisers and thumping basslines was a worthy diversion.

That said, it’s their grasp of epic, soaring tearjerkers that has secured their place as indie stalwarts.

It all becomes too much for one fan at the front, who faints during Someday, prompting Danny to curtail it before the final chorus.

A timely Save Me regains the momentum lost during the tepid title track of the new album before Gravity and Ashes seal the deal.

All That Remains, the pinnacle of their new offering and soon-to-be next single, is as thrilling and exhausting live as the album version suggests it would be.

And then Never - a duet here with rising star and support act Eevah (remember the name...) is the pre-cursor to the only encore closer Embrace would be allowed to choose, The Good Will Out.

With a summer schedule packed with festivals and a Good Will Out anniversary celebration planned for next year, these great survivors are in rude health.

The new songs suggest a bright future awaits.

Those who wrote them off time and again should probably now get the message.

Andy Sykes