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.