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Wednesday, 9 November 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Anathema (Live Review By Paul)

Anathema: The Globe, Cardiff

There are some gigs that you just have to take a bit of time after to reflect on what you have just witnessed. This was one of those evenings. On Bonfire’s Night in a cramped 350 capacity venue in the Welsh Capital, the Liverpool outfit delivered a fantastic two hours which left the audience soaked in emotion and gasping for air.

You could tell it was going to be a special night when 55 minutes before doors opened the queue was already snaking down Albany Road. A real mix in the audience, mature couples standing next to battle jacket clad metal heads, gothic ladies next to dapperly suited gents. Such is the allure of this brilliant band that I’m sure they could have sold it out again.

Taking our place on the centre of the balcony, the tone for the evening was already set with the background music mixing Porcupine Tree with much of Opeth’s Damnation. At 8:30 the band sauntered on to the stage to a heroic welcome. It’s rare to see Anathema (10) in these parts so it was bloody great to see them in our home city. I’ve seen Anathema several times in a variety of settings, from the third stage at Download to their triumphant homecoming at Liverpool Cathedral last year but this was probably as good as they’ve ever performed. With a quarter of their 16 song set brand new tracks which have yet to be recorded properly, the band displayed a confidence which never flipped into the arrogance that can sometimes happen.

Musically it was stunning. Daniel Cavanagh, the main songwriter and artistic creator permanently restless stopping a couple of songs before they got going in order to get everything spot on. His guitar work astonishing, solos flowing out of him as he got into his stride whilst he constantly monitored pedals and loops whilst dipping back and fore from the keyboards. To his left his brother Vincent, the focal point of the band. Clad in tight black shirt and jeans, his tousled hair making him every inch the rock star, voice more impressive than I’ve ever heard, his rhythm guitar work solid and his overall approach so impressive, drenched in emotion, combining beautifully with Lee Douglas, whose own vocal performances just keep getting better and better. Whilst this trio may be the more well-known members of Anathema, the backline provided by Vincent’s twin brother Jamie on bass, Lee’s brother John on drums/percussion and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Cardoso was just splendid. The drumming on tracks such as Thin Air and Distant Satellites was magnificent.

With the four new tracks sounding very promising, especially the guitar driven Bricks which was part of a four song encore, the other 12 tracks were always going to be amazing. The band didn’t disappoint, picking a handful each from Weather Systems and We’re Here Because We’re Here and a couple from 2014’s Distant Satellites and A Natural Disaster. Opening with a new track (Gotyou To) it was quickly into the emotionally charged beauty of Untouchable Part I and Part II. Looking around The Globe it was clear that these songs tug at the heartstrings of many of the Anathema faithful and you can easily understand why. Weather Systems is such a delicately balanced and important album that nearly every member of the audience holds it dear for individual and personal reasons. There were tears in the eyes of many in the crowd as these tracks were played.

New track number two was Springfield, sandwiched between the other two tracks from Weather Systems. The first, a quite blistering The Storm Before The Calm which allowed the band to build atmosphere and let rip whilst The Beginning And The End maintained the momentum. As the evening built, the interplay between the band and the crowd intensified, with lyrics being sung with gusto by the crowd and the band really looking happy. References to the Welsh football team earned a rousing cheer, although Danny’s Welsh accent won’t win him any awards.

Set closer Distant Satellites saw Vincent add some venomous percussion as the song moved to an exploding climax with Daniel’s drumming off the chart. A quick break allowed everyone to catch their breath before the final four songs. After new songs Bricks and The Optimist, penultimate track A Natural Disaster allowed Lee to really let go and she didn’t disappoint with a quite amazing vocal performance. Traditional set closer Fragile Dreams brought the place to an emotional crescendo and with the applause still ringing in their ears the band left the stage after what was one of the most beautifully composed, structured and delivered evenings I’ve ever witnessed in Cardiff.

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