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Anathema + Mothers Cake | Live Review


Limelight, Belfast, September 2014

Anathema live – there are few nights like it.

They’re a band whose name on a ticket stub still gets the goose pimples standing. What will they play? Will it really be as special as its going to be? Few bands make you feel like that any more.

When they take to the stage tonight they are a band renewed.

They now have not one but two drummers, playing together. And of course Lee Douglas, undoubted star of the new album, up front as well.

The thing to realise about this gig is that it’s not so much an Anathema show as a ‘Distant Satellites’ show. This album is their new voice, and they’re going to use it.

There are of course other tracks here and there, but it is really a showcase for the new masterwork of which they must be justifiably proud. The band know it’s a great record otherwise they wouldn’t build a set like this around it – and despite this being the first gig of the tour, I bet my bottom dollar they know the audience love it too. Sometimes you can just tell.

As the pounding shift beat of ‘The Lost Song Part 1’ kicks it all off, what’s absolutely stunning is the amount of people who are already singing the opening lyrics. How many times can you say you’ve seen that for a band’s new material?

On the drums, Daniel Cardoso adds a new punch to Anathema live. There’s just more movement, more drive, more locomotive power behind them. Vinny’s guitar is a bit low in the mix in general terms, but when it matters, it does come back.

‘Lost Song Part 3’ builds to a resounding climax, and it seems as though Vinny’s scarlet shirt is the result of his heart bursting over it – he is just so into this music that noone could doubt the very genuine emotion it takes to write and sing it. We all know what his vocals mean to us, and tonight, as ever, he delivers them with the kind of searing honesty that puts you through the emotional mangler.

A peak is reached for a stunning, gentle rendition of ‘Ariel’, only to be exploded by the searing valedictory of ‘Anathema’, whose guitar solo is by now so memorable as to be in the realms of the Rock Guitar Greats.

Looking around, the audience are absolutely lapping it up, roaring back at them ‘Untouchable’s beautiful lyrics, while even the dark industrial-pop of ‘Storm Before The Calm’ works splendidly, and in perfect context.

There will always be folk complaining about Anathema not playing more old material. Why on earth would they, or should they, when their current material is as awesome as it sounds tonight? When they’ve refined and crafted their music for years into an almost transcendental form of post-metal that needs no explaining, and only feeling?

Yet they permit one, and incredibly ‘Fragile Dreams’ sounds somehow heavier than it ever did before. Bearing in mind that when it came out it was actually a significant dilution of their weight. Tonight it rings clear and powerful, and they really thrash it out.

I could eulogise for hours about how much Anathema have now grown into the band they’re destined to be. Lee Douglas is pitch perfect, and an affecting, happy presence on stage, while Danny Cavanagh, the band’s songwriter in chief, is in benevolent charge of his band. Vinny, the silent enigma, is just Vinny.

How this band are not now massive on a global scale is hard to fathom, given that they’ve got everything – the weight, the emotion, the accessibility, the heritage. They are absolutely on fire right now, confident in their new sound, electric in delivering it.

To have several hundred fans shouting out your latest material is about the best validation any band could want, and proof that they’ve steered their ship the right way, in spite of what many diehards would have wanted of them.

It’s not like I’ve been truly convinced about ‘Weather Systems’ in particuar either – but sometimes you just have to hear material live in order for it to really click. This gig was that. Proof.

Stirring, powerful and as transcendant for band and audience as you can achieve in live rock music, Anathema are nothing short of splendid.

An almost perfect performance, and one to be remembered.

Earl Grey ::: 20/09/14
Special thanks to Shaun Neary for the ace photos.


14 Comments
  1. Great review, was at the dublin gig but was just as moving. A Stunning live band .

  2. Aye, spot on review. Basically the same report of the Dublin show. Super.

  3. Just listened to this band this weekend for the first time in 15+ years after reading this review. I’m really impressed by Distant Satellites

  4. I went to see them a few weeks ago in Melbourne, I never thought I’d get to see them over here in Australia but I’m so glad they made the effort to visit us!
    It was an amazing show, the only downside was also an upside, the venue was way too small and overcrowded, my wife only got to watch the tops of their heads and even I myself had trouble watching the show and I have a bit of height about me! No fault of the band, but hopefully the promoter took note of the sold out sales and will book a better venue if they come back out. The upside of this is that while we were sitting around the side of the venue we got to have a chat to Jamie beforehand, and passing by the same area afterwards, a chat to Vinny too.
    The show was stunning, they played a great mix spanning several albums, starting with untouchable, moving into a couple of DS songs, hearing anathema (the song not the band) was incredible and Vincent put an amazing amount of energy into his performance. The dual drumming was a surprising addition, John and Daniel were flawless in their timing and delivery.
    I can truly say that it was the emotionally honest and powerful gig I have ever been too, until that night I had never been moved to tears by a bands performance but Anathema smashed my emotional barriers, by the end of the night I was completely exhausted even without exerting much effort!

    Can’t wait to see these guys again and I really hope they weren’t making empty promise when they said they’d be coming back to Australia!

  5. I thought the dual drumming was one of the most interesting parts of the gig. At the start it looked like John Douglas had been ‘relegated’ to maraccas but it quickly became apparent there was a LOT more to it. Plus Cardoso is the guy behind Head Control System as well (feat Ulver), making it even more creative.

    Awesomeness.

  6. Brilliant Review and can be applied to Dublin. Technically there’s one drummer and one percussionist.

  7. Are drummers not percussionists?

    Yeah, pretty much agree with this review. It was an awesome show, really good. I am one of those who gives out a *little* bit about them focusing solely on post 2001 material in their live setlist nowadays, but I don’t think that’s completely unreasonable when you consider that that’s an entire half of their discography which they pretty much completely ignore, apart from ‘Fragile Dreams’. I could understand that to an extent if those albums were really weak, but they’re not. They’re absolute classics and they’re as much a part of what makes this band special to their fans as the newer material is – which I love by the way. I think Weather Systems is amazing.

    I suppose it would be easier to accept if the band had changed their name to XYZ with the tagline of ‘(Formerly Anathema)’, but I know there are different views on that too.

    But yeah, a really great show.

  8. In fairness to them though, last time they were here they cracked out ‘Angelica’.

    Which was amazeballs, natch.

  9. I would agree !!!! To ignore judgement is ludicrous and for what ?? Three radiohead wannabe songs that wouldn’t touch anything on judgement or Alt 4 ! I think all Anathema stuff is deadly but DS is the worst of the last 3 and playing almost all of it is a bit much , It was a great show but it did get a bit meh from Your Not Alone onwards !!!

  10. I have little or no time for that Radiohead stuff on record but live it was much, much better. Granted, I too would have preferred any Judgement stuff in its place but they’re entitled to pick out a setlist they enjoy and it takes a lot of backbone/stubborness to stick with their principles in this regard.

    @Muiris, I think they were right to keep the name. Again it comes down to them doing things their way and everything else be damned. I’ve a lot of respect for them for sticking to their guns.

  11. ‘and it seems as though Vinny’s scarlet shirt is the result of his heart bursting over it’,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Ah jayzus, pass the bucket will ya!!! ;)….as regards the name, therein lies the problem perhaps? The review notes that they should be bigger, and of course they should, with the type of anthemic music that they play but I think the name holds them back in that regard, as to the mainstream music fan I’m sure it still sounds a bit ‘heavy metal’ even though they’ve ditched any attachment to metal a long time ago. If they had changed their name when they started changing their style of music Ive no doubt they would be a lot bigger now than they currently are,,,maybe not Radiohead big but certainly striving for it.

  12. Ya, they’ve acknowledged that they’ve a bit of a glass ceiling with regard to how big they’re likely to get but they think their age is as much a factor as the name. If they were in their 20s or 30s even they might be more likely to be pushed on mainstream media.

    I don’t think there was ever that much of a leap from album to album, it’s only really evident if you compare last 3 albums with the first 3. Generally it was gradual enough that a change in name might have been a bit drastic. The biggest single change, could be argued, occurred on The Silent Enigma and that happened, what, 4 or 5 years into their existence?

  13. IMO, if they’d have changed name from Eternity onwards, they could have had a much more successful (in financial terms anyway) career.

  14. Ya, I reckon you’re right. I’m glad they were stubborn enough not to though haha. Everyone has their own thoughts of course, none of which the band really give a shit about.

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