The Embarrassment bring their ’80s heyday to Liberty Hall

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The Embarrassment. // photo by Nick Spacek

The Embarrassment
Liberty Hall
Friday, June 30

Back in September, I considered driving down to Wichita to see the premiere of We Were Famous, You Don’t Remember: The Embarrassment, a documentary about the legendary and influential Wichita band. It was followed by a reunion performance from The Embarrassment, as well, but it just wasn’t in the cards.

Then, well over half a year later, and here I was on Friday night getting to see the documentary and the band at Lawrence’s Liberty Hall, and boy oh boy, was I excited. It’d been nearly 17 years since the Embos last played Lawrence, and my attendance at that show had been cut short.

Thus, I was extremely hyped on Friday for both documentary and performance.

The wait was totally worth it. We Were Famous, You Don’t Remember is an excellent portrait of a band who were critically lauded and loved by all the right people, yet unwilling to play the games necessary to become more than cult heroes. It’s full of interviews with everyone familiar with the band, loaded with live performances, and will make you fall in love with the band all over again if you’re already a fan.

Then came the band themselves. Opening with the Seeds’ “Pushing Too Hard” and immediately following it with their own early single “Patio Set” is a superb start to the set, but following those with “I’m A Don Juan” and “Drive Me to the Park” would’ve been perfect right there. I was personally only expecting a quick little set of five to six songs, not an actual set, so the fact that the Embos would end up playing for nearly an hour left me beyond surprised and happy.

The audience was, perhaps unsurprisingly, older. Given the fact that the band had its heyday in the early to mid-’80s, that means the majority of folks in the crowd for the show were in their early 60s. That said, it doesn’t mean that they were stodgy. People were dancing, singing along, and thrilling to hearing these songs live for the first time in years.

For good reason, too, as the band sounded great. Not pretty good for their age or time apart, but legitimately great. We’d just spent an hour and a half hearing the original studio versions of these songs and watching performances of the band in their prime, so it takes a certain amount of hubris to get up there four decades afterward to run through a greatest hits set immediately thereafter.

It was angular, sounded amazing, and was a bummer when it ended. However, how often do you get two versions of “Elizabeth Montgomery’s Face,” both sped-up and the original pacing, along with a cover of David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel”? Not nearly enough.

The Embarrassment setlist
Pushin’ Too Hard (The Seeds cover)
Patio Set
I’m A Don Juan
Drive Me to the Park
Elizabeth Montgomery’s Face (fast version)
Two Cars
Maybe Baby (Buddy Holly & the Crickets cover)
Special Eyes
Woods of Love
Sex Drive

Rebel Rebel (David Bowie cover)
Elizabeth Montgomery’s Face (original version)

Categories: Music