Embrace, Newcastle University

Embrace rise from indie graveyard in soft-rock resurrection

They thought it was all over. Sacked from their label in the wake of disastrous sales for their third album, Embrace looked set to enter the indie rock graveyard in the plot marked "bargain bin''.

As the massed fans lovingly mouth the words to their every song it becomes clear that Embrace may well have pulled off one of the greatest injury-time match winners in history.

Back in the days when beats ruled the charts and purveyors of sweet melodies couldn't catch a cold, let alone a chart placing, it was the indie stalwarts like Embrace who suffered. Today, things have come full circle. We're in the era of indie's revenge. Nice ballads are the order of the day and electronic beats are old news. Which explains Keane.

It soon becomes clear what has brought about their return to the big league. Singer Danny McNamara has developed a new emotional resonance to his previously detached vocals. One listen to the Chris Martin penned single "Gravity", underlines this. Where once McNamara was all bombastic baritone, now his performance employs the subtlety of a warmer, caressing tone.

Musically, too, the band have evolved. Gone are the stadium-by-numbers rabble-rousers - in their place are emotional epics with their frailty as obvious as their strengths. The producer, Youth, brought about this change. His exacting demands for musical perfection brought out an ambitious aspect to the band. But this revolution also has so much to do with the band's years in the shadows. While no one was watching they rediscovered their need to make music. It is this passion that really came across last night.

Old favourites like "My Weakness" and "Retred" have a new life breathed into them - lumpy shapes remoulded into softer, more subtle versions. "All You Good People" displays the kind of soul normally captured in old Motown records while "Gravity" reveals a soft underbelly to its previous epic armoury.

It's as if they feel like impostors in their new found position at the top of the album charts. As a result, the performance smacks of self-awareness. Yet there is a sense of pride that scoops even the least interesting songs to new highs. Embrace prove there is more interesting life in them yet. Well, at least for another 90 minutes anyway.

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