Few bands have ever made as big a gear switch as Anathema did after second album 'The Silent Enigma'. To go from predominantly death/doom metal to prog-esque alternative rock was something of a left turn at the traffic lights, not least for their fans. At least the band's records have always had one thing in commmon however...they've all been really depressing. Well, the new one isn't. It may have taken seven years but it appears that during that time Anathema have cheered the funk up. Most of the people inside the Islington Academy to see this special 'Evening With' show seem to be aware of that already. Indeed, when frontman Vincent Cavanagh asks the crowd "How many of you have pirated our new album? Honestly we don't mind" around half of those present put their hand up. Assuming that plenty of people were too embarassed to own up means that the majority have already heard 'We're Here Because We're Here', for that is the title of the new record. It's pretty good...but that's for another day.
Certainly Anathema don't let a set featuring copious amounts of new material bog them down. The first four songs from 1999's superb 'Judgement' album follow new song 'Thin Air' and pass by in a flash with Vincent's spot-on vocals being all the more impressive considering his monitors aren't working and he can't hear what's going on. Considering that Anathema are beset by an array of technical problems tonight the performance is truly remarkable. Bassist Jamie Cavanagh's amp doesn't seem to be working until halfway through the first song and Danny Cavanagh's (yes they're three brothers) guitar rig shuts down totally after 'Everything', leaving him to play an impromptu acoustic 'Are You There?' to the delight of the crowd. The singalong this provides leads the grinning guitarist to thank the crowd for "One of (his) best ever moments on stage". When things do get going again 'One Last Goodbye' isn't a bad way to thank a crowd for its perseverance. Probably the most timelessly beautiful song Anathema have ever, or will ever, write, it's as touching live as in its original form on record.
One thing Anathema do manage live to some great effect is pace the set extremely well. They know just when it's time to break out another raft of new songs or a heavy track to remind everyone they're not totally given over to atmospheric balladry. The likes of 'Empty', 'Judgement' and 'Panic' provide the heavy highlights whilst the occasional addition of Lee Douglas' tender female vocals gives a nice contrast to Vincent's powerful tones. Indeed Lee's lead vocal song 'A Natural Disaster' is one of the best moments of the show. As it's an evening with show the band are on stage for nearly 2 hours before departing to the superb 'Flying', only to return with epic new album closer 'Universal' and a "really, really old song" in 'Sleepless' before 'Shroud of False' and 'Fragile Dreams' close the evening. The band may not have been able to hear much or even rely on their equipment working but they were still excellent all the way through. In fact the only real gripe is that Les Smith's keyboards aren't always as prominent as they should be. A top notch show...and actually far better than I expected it to be.
Anathema - 10/10
Destiny Is Dead
Are You There? (Danny solo - acoustic)
One Last Goodbye
Angels Walk Among Us
A Simple Mistake
A Natural Disaster
Shroud Of False