Long gone are the days of Anathema taking the form of a death/doom metal band, to the extent where debut album ‘Serenades’ could easily be mistaken as a wholly different band. However, a significant portion of their heavy metal fan base has remained loyal throughout their progressive evolution. It’s immediately clear when walking into Manchester Academy 3 just how popular Anathema are, as the packed crowd draped in Anathema t-shirts from all eras eagerly await their arrival to the stage.
The set list is predominantly taken from the last four albums, with latest release ‘Distant Satellites’ being the dominant focus, which perhaps may have left some fans disappointed. Requests for earlier material are shouted out intermittently provoking the response of “It’s going to be one of those nights is it” from Danny Cavanagh, who makes the remark in a purely light hearted manner. Danny shows his real charismatic side this evening, interacting with the crowd throughout the duration of the set.
As aforementioned, ‘Distant Satellites’ takes precedence over the set list, kicking off with ‘The Lost Song Part One and Two’ followed by the spine tingling ‘Untouchable Part One and Two’, bringing elation from the crowd as Vinny Cavanagh and Lee Douglas pour their hearts and souls into the vocals. However, it’s 'Anathema' from ‘Distant Satellites’ that steals the show for me, the fragility of the beginning followed by the crushing impact of the guitar solo makes for a memorable moment and set highlight.
Vinny utilizes the vocoder for the amazing ‘Closer’, before the sound cuts out and engineers frantically run through the crowd towards the stage. Sound problems are always an annoyance yet between the comedy of a guy shouting out ‘Who has got 50p for the meter?’ and Danny breaking into Pink Floyds 'Wish You Were Here' inviting the crowd to sing along, it was the best handled technical problem I’ve ever witnessed at a gig. Vinny returns to the vocoder and the crowd return to having a wonderful time as if nothing ever happened.
‘A Natural Disaster’ shows off the incredible vocal ability of Lee Douglas, who sings each lyric with utter precision. To the delight of everyone Anathema concludes with ‘Fragile Dreams’ from ‘Alternative 4’ a song that is undoubtedly their biggest hit. What really comes across when Anathema play live, is how massively talented each member is musically; furthermore they play with such outstanding accuracy resulting in an impressively flawless set. Seeing Anathema live is almost an experience rather than just a gig, their music is so beautifully constructed and emotive you become absorbed into the soundscape. A strong contender for best gig of 2014.
Words by: Heather Blewett.