Well it seems to have become something of a tradition over the last 3
years or so for Anathema to play in London just before the Christmas
season. I had been expecting a short tour in support of their new album
Disaster, but that will now take place in early 2004 and the band settled
for playing just this lone K!-Fest appearance in London. Given that it was
a rare live appearance from the band, it was not surprising to find that
fans had flown in from all around Europe, with large groups having travelled
from France, Spain and Greece resulting in a reasonably full venue.
First up were Elitist Records recording artists Wolverine from Sweden,
playing their debut UK show. Having first seen them play at the first
Progpower Festival in 1999 I had lost track of them until recently
hearing their new album Cold
Light of Monday. Whilst their debut EP
never really clicked with me, their more recent music, which invokes
comparision with Remedy
Lane from Pain of Salvation, is warmer and more accessible.
The main part of their half-hour set was comprised of material from this
new disk but it was unfortunately spoilt by a few sound problems.
While a very loud drum sound during the opening number was soon resolved,
the sound engineer never managed to give any volume to anyone but vocalist
Stephan Zell's microphone. While Stephan could be heard loud and clear and
sang beautifully, the lack of backing vocals and harmonys was sorely missed on
tunes like Towards Loss and Carousel. Despite the problems,
the band appeared to be delighted to have the opportunity to play in the
UK and they received a warm response from the crowd.
Things went much better for Anathema. The mix was much improved for a
start and the band's lighting engineer had chosen to illuminate the musicians
with much brighter colours than usual. The band themselves, now featuring
three Cavanagh brothers, seemed very relaxed and at ease with each other,
so all the omens were there for what promised to be a great gig.
They opened with the energetic Pulled Under at 2000 miles an hour
from A Natural
Disaster and followed up with two further tunes from the
same disk, including the fantastic Closer. One of the highlights of
A Natural Disaster, it features vocalist Vinnie Cavanagh singing
through a vocoder and came over very well in the live environment. However
no sooner was the song finished, than a roadie was on stage to remove
the vocoder equipment, which appeared to be getting in Vinnie’s way.
The band then started exploring their back catalogue, playing first
a couple of more aggressive tunes from their previous album
A Fine Day To Exit,
both well received by the crowd, before they slowed things down for
Forgotten Hopes coupled with the short instrumental Destiny is Dead
from Judgement, which were beautiful as ever.
Anathema often make use of a female voice for a song or two on their albums,
often calling on the services of Lee Douglas, the sister of drummer John.
It is not often that she gets the opportunity to perform live with the band,
but she was present at the gig and came on stage to sing the title track of
the new album, in which was probably the highlight of the evening. A little
later on, she re-appeared to duet with Vinnie on Temporary Peace.
As the band's sound has moved further away from their original Doom/Death
Metal beginnings, they have made no secret of their liking for the music of
Pink Floyd. A few years ago I saw them play Comfortably Numb
when supporting Porcupine Tree, but on this occasion they plucked out
something a little more obscure in the form of Empty Spaces coupled
with What Shall We Do Now from The Wall. Unusual choices, but
tunes that fitted in very well alongside their own material.
The short set then concluded with Judgement, a couple of further
tunes from A Fine Day To Exit and an excellent set closer of
Flying from the new album. Anathema have a reputation of not
really embracing the concept of playing 'encores', so I was pleasantly
surprised to see them reappear and for Vinnie to announce that they would
"... play a couple of different versions of some thing you know".
Cheers of recognition greeted the opening chords of Fragile Dream
and the crowd sang along lustily. Then, as that song came to a close
they bridged neatly into the instrumental closer of 2000 and Gone.
Both tunes were significantly re-worked and perhaps gave some hints as
to where the band's material might be headed in future.
Overall it was a good evening, even if Anathema's set was a little short and
I didn't get the usual quota of goose bumps that I can normally expect
from seeing the band live. The new material came over very well on stage,
but what I found most surprising was the great reception that material from
the generally maligned A Fine Day To Exit album, received from the fans.
Similarly there were refreshingly few calls for songs from the depths of the
band's back catalogue. It would appear that the audience, like the band,
has moved with the times.