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The Ross Who Knew Too Much

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Viva wimp rock

So at tonight's sold-out show at the Quest, a guy in front of me turned around and asked: "Is this Snow Patrol?"

Nope, I said, it's the opening band, Embrace.

This was kind of funny because Snow Patrol -- the headlining band of the evening -- doesn't sound all that different from Embrace. Or Keane. Or, for that matter, Coldplay.

(Or maybe it was just the fact that Embrace's band members were wearing Snow Patrol T-shirts that threw the guy off. But I doubt it.)

Embrace are the latest in a run of British bands trading on Coldplay's bankable formula of, well, wimp rock. And based on Wednesday's show, Embrace stand to become quite rich, indeed.

To be clear, Embrace are actually the granddaddies of this whole genre. They first emerged from the Britpop scene of the '90s, when Blur and Oasis ruled the world (or at least the UK). Coldplay used to open for them back in the day.

Embrace's 1998 debut "The Good Will Out" holds a special place in my heart, thanks to the epic "All You Good Good People" -- the best song Oasis never wrote -- and "Fireworks," the song that made me fall for the band in the first place. It's a tender ballad made all the more affecting thanks to lead singer Danny McNamara's vocals.

Now he's not what you would call a traditionally great singer. NME, for instance, has compared his voice to a "wounded buffalo whimpering helplessly." But personally, I've always been a sucker for singers who aren't afraid to let pitch and key and tune get in the way of their emotions. Seriously. I mean, some of the greatest, most distinctive voices in rock music have little to do with training: Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Courtney Love (you heard), Johnny Rotten, and so on. (My personal, lesser-known favorites in this category would include June Panic and Epic Soundtracks.)

All of that said, when I walked in -- a few songs into Embrace's set, thanks to a line outside that snaked around the block -- the band launched into "All You Good Good People." And, yow, my love of non-singers came back to haunt me. Danny was all over the map and not in a good way. I can say, without fear of exaggeration, that I have turned in better performances of that song (in the car, in the shower, while sleeping, etc.).

Thankfully, though, things got better. And quickly. I clearly wasn't the only Embrace fan in the audience, but Danny and company quickly won over a significant percentage of the crowd. It certainly helped when he introduced "Gravity" as a song written by -- oh yes -- Coldplay.

I'm willing to bet that by the end of the summer, plenty of people are going to be singing along to "Gravity." And I expect the band's return date, when they headline the small room at the Quest, is going to sell out, sooner than later.

You read it here first.


Blogger rachael said...

ah sweetness ... i really wanted to see embrace last night and you captured it perfectly. please report when they play again.

4:13 PM  

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