Embrace – Doncaster Dome

From heroes to zeros and then back again, it's no wonder the boys from Embrace appear to be living every minute in the limelight as if it's their last.

It’s not difficult to see the relief in Danny McNamara’s eyes as he stands high on stage with arms outstretched, a beaming, grateful grin permanently etched upon his face. It seems to be as much of a surprise to him as it is the band’s less enamoured critics that, once again, he’s back with his mates playing to capacity crowds up and down the country.

Yorkshire’s Doncaster is no exception, this particular sports hall having sold out four month’s previous. And despite the incongruous leisure centre surroundings which sees lagered-up punters mingling with teenage ice-skaters and gym-bound fitness fanatics, this is effectively a celebratory homecoming gig, with close family and friends in attendance.

On the intro tape, Embrace‘s prolonged and unintended exile in fourth album wilderness is alluded to with a snippet of Louis Armstrong’s ‘We Have All The Time In The World’ before the brothers McNamara and co. burst into life with new favourite ‘Ashes’. Brimming with confidence, it’s only minutes later that trademark call-to-arms anthem ‘All You Good Good People’ is relinquished until, at the opposite end of the scale, a work in progress with incomplete lyrics is showcased. ‘New Song 1’ might be a catchy close relation to their opening number but it forms only a tiny part of the wealth of material that has been drafted in the last couple of weeks as the unstinting front man confesses to recently writing 23 new songs. Another one of these is aired towards the end of the set in the form of ‘Contender’, a sure-fire future single driven by an unrelenting riff. No Coldplay cast-offs needed at the moment thank you, Chris.

Despite being less fashionable than shell-suits with the skinny tie brigade and indie mafia, this Huddersfield five-piece have made a clear, honest connection with a huge proportion of the record buying public. Let there be no shame in such populist accolade for a band who can comfortably translate such raw energy and emotion into a monumental two-hour live set. All told, it’s a commanding and engaging performance from a band at the peak of their powers and if tonight is a taste of things to come, expect them to dominate 2005’s festival season. You read it here first.