A brief(!) history of Anathema and I:
August 1993 in Dublin and the 19-year old me is leaving a gig venue when a girl spots that I’m wearing a Paradise Lost Icon shirt, starts chatting to me and asks “Do you like Anathema too?” Fast forward a few days and a cassette (remember those?) purchase later I did like Anathema. The younger me loved those earlier albums….well, mostly. I was a ‘Metaller’ – I couldn’t be doing with some of the lighter songs. When Judgement was released, in 1999, I started to leave them behind and 2001’s A Fine Day to Exit was indeed true.
A number of years pass and it’s Download 2007 and my wife and I decide that we would check out Anathema – and we were blown away, mostly by the beautiful “A Natural Disaster”. The following year my first daughter is born with that song as the soundtrack (not planned, the CD was a mix of ‘lighter’ songs and was on shuffle!!), with my second daughter born in 2010 to the strains of “Flying” from the same mix CD. So yeah, I loved them then I fell out of love with them then we got back together.
And so we arrive at this night in the beautiful Winchester Cathedral. I’ve been in some interesting venues over the years and up until now I had thought that I’d never see a more apt combination than Royal Albert Hall/Opeth from a couple of years ago. But this one knocks that into a cocked hat.
Opening with “The Lost Song, Part 2” from 2014’s Distant Satellites the trio of Danny Cavanagh, his brother Vincent and Lee Douglas take to the floor, and the vocal talent of Miss Douglas instantly fills the sold out cathedral and you know that it’s going to be a special night. Vincent’s backing vocal complements perfectly in this haunting song and I admit feeling a tad emotional as it builds to the end.
The tempo is upped slightly for “Untouchable, Part 1” where it is Vincent Cavanagh’s chance to showcase his vocals, and it leads straight to “Untouchable, Part 2” where both Vincent and Lee combine to show how well suited their voices are together.
It’s not all about the vocals though – Danny is clearly enjoying himself too, using the acoustics of this venue so well. His use of a loop pedal to build up the guitar and percussion works for the most part; but even when it doesn’t, Danny charms the crowd with his self-deprecating wit. He even joins in on vocal duties with “Electricity” from the A Natural Disaster album. The trio are also joined at times by John Douglas on drums, Jamie Cavanagh on bass and David Wesling on cello, most notably for “Anathema”
Witnessing this set, I can feel that younger version of myself getting a little bit angst-ridden – any chance of playing some older stuff? When Danny mentions playing something from way back, but then introduces “Temporary Peace”, I did feel pissed off. That is tempered though by my chuckle in response to someone in the audience saying “Alternative 4?” and Danny responding instantly with “Not that far back” – and tempered further by the performance of the song itself. So that younger me gets a slap and is told to feck off.
Let’s be honest, the band don’t have to dip into the older albums at all. There is no need for them to be nostalgic, as what they are producing here is much more than enough to keep the audience happy. By the time the last song of the set, “Take Shelter”, ends it is clear that everyone here is more than happy as they rise to a standing ovation as the band leave to take a breather. And what a quick breather it was… back out to play within a minute, and back out to play 3 songs that close things off perfectly.
“Internal Landscapes” was beautiful but it’s that song “A Natural Disaster” that brings out the biggest ‘wow’ of the night – but not just for the obvious musical reasons. The place has been plunged into almost darkness and the request for the audience to use their phones to provide the light show has started things off. When lights are then shone on two well-concealed disco balls, and the cathedral lights up – I don’t usually enjoy light shows or theatrics at a gig, as I feel it detracts from the music, but this was perfect.
And then the band does dip into an older album; from 1998’s Alternative 4, a re-working of “Fragile Dreams” brings things to a close, and the audience again rise to their feet. Looking around it is clear that this night has hit the spot perfectly and has lived up to the hype, possibly even exceeding any expectations.
If you happened to miss out on this tour, the final night in Liverpool has been recorded for DVD release. Get it! And also try to catch them on the “Resonance” tour next month, where the band will be playing a set gleaned from all of their albums all the way back to the earlier mentioned Serenades – the younger me can come out to play for that one I think.