Last night was a telling tale about a band triumphing over an industry that had put quite a few hurdles in their way. A band, despite having four records out including a #1, were playing their first show in New York City. Why is it I could have seen about four Kaiser Chief shows last month alone and around a thousand other indie hopefuls in the time it's taken these guys, but I digress. The seven year wait for Embrace has finally ended. Long a sparring target for the likes of the UK London-centric music scene and peers like Oasis, the brothers McNamara, singer Danny and guitarist Richard, are finally having their day in the sun. Rising to mainstream attention in 1997 as a brother-fronted band from the North of England [Leeds to be exact], they wrote epics that quickly put them in the sights of then cocaine supernovastars Noel and Liam Gallagher. Bragging rights were the headlines de jour. Embrace were to take the less headline-grabbing road and let the music do their talking. We here in the States were excited when Geffen signed them and dates were announced. Then, suddenly, the tour plans were dashed and their relationship with America would be put on hold until last night.
The Bowery Ballroom was their home away from home, packed with local anglophiles and fans from the UK and hometown Leeds. The US faithful rewarded with eight year's worth of music. It was a night where the good would will out. Starting off with "Ashes" off their newest record Out Of Nothing [coming out in the US on Lava], you could tell the band were in their moment, just so excited to be on a stage in New York. Danny McNamara touched on it between songs, saying the show was late because their usual pre-show backstage huddle was a bit emotional. Gathered in a circle, shoulders interlocked, he said chanting "New York, New York, New York" was this great culmination of dreams. "We're usually saying Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton" as those in the crowd who know English geography like V2's Miguel Banuelos chuckled with insider's glee. Setting up next song, "All You Good Good People" off their first record, Danny triumphantly declared, "this is for all you people who waited seven f*cking years!". What a great song. Building, growing, exploding, classicly arranged with orchestras and swirling strings, it's what puts them in their own league. Five guys sounding like twenty.
Before long, guitarist and awesome backing vocalist Richard McNamara is struck with every man's fear on stage, equipment failure. No worries, brother Danny, who is more charismatic then I have ever read in the press, just straps on a guitar and rambles into "Fireworks", another early classic making its' US debut. Gear difficulties abated, the band is back at full speed reeling off gems like "Someday" and "Looking As You Are" off the new one, "Save Me" off their second record Drawn From Memory and "One Big Family", "My Weakness Is None Of Your Business" and "Come Back To What You Know" off the debut. It's clear this band should have been on their fifth tour of the States by now, but there is no self pity here. They are just honestly stoked to be on stage. Every song Danny has his hand above his head, leading the crowd through their communal chant style choruses with ease. He's a born showman. For the song "Gravity", a song co-written with Chris Martin, it really hits you that these guys could have been Coldplay before Coldplay were huge. And why isn't Lava really promoting these guys in Coldplay's extended recording hiatus? That's a freebie, Jason.
Coming back for their encore, they change things up with a cover of Eminem and D12's "How Come" complete with a single light over Danny's head for dramatic effect. Keeping things mellow, something Embrace are not shy about, they end on "The Good Will Out" and the song kind of symbolizes their career. The good finally willing out. Existentially deep, I know, but I can't say enough about how good these guys are. The entire crowd joins in on the extended outro, the house lights come up so you can see everyone's face, and as one of their previous song goes, "we are family". Welcome to America.