Anathema @ Leeds Cathedral
Anthony Firmin gets holier than thou whilst worshipping Anathema
When this tour was announced back in late September I was very excited by the prospect of seeing Anathema in these Gothic cathedral settings. But with all these acoustic tours that bands do, there is always a sense of not knowing what to expect or even whether it was going to be any good.
Although the band were originally a doom metal band they matured, expanded their sound and diversified into neu-prog. They are now part of the current prog revival here in the UK, so these acoustic gigs are the polar opposite of what they were originally.
Support this evening was from the wonderfully talented and stunningly beautiful Anna Phoebe, the infamous prog violinist, who for this tour was accompanied by Mark Rizzi on acoustic guitar. The music played was primarily from the album Between The Shadow And The Soul released last year. It fuses lots of influences, uses lots of musicians amongst them Ian Anderson on flute, and embraces the culture of many countries. In Continuum is typical of this with a Moroccan vibe running throughout the piece of music. Although Rizzi is fairly static on stage Phoebe more than makes up for his lack of stage presence with her dramatic movements and one legged playing of her violin!
Although unplanned they had time for an extra piece called Balingoola which was about Phoebe's time growing up in Ireland although strangely was written on the tube in London whilst commuting. Overall this was an amazing performance but at 30 minutes was not enough as the music they were playing beautifully reverberated around the Minster.
After a short break it was time for Anathema who are the first band ever to play Leeds Minster. You could feel the tension in the crowd as no one knew what to expect. The first song played was Lost Song Pt. II and featured Daniel and Vincent Cavanagh as well as Lee Douglas singing. This was followed byUntouchable Pt 1 & 2. The acoustic sounds from the band resonated around the full congregation of Anathema worshippers.
Next up was Thin Air where things started to become less acoustic with Vincent playing an electric guitar and Daniel creating a layered buildup of sounds using loops, from the rhythm of his acoustic guitar as well as a drum sound, onto which he added further loops. It seemed a bit stuttery whilst he got things going but once sorted he was flying along as were Vincent and Lee.
Any initial issues with the sound had now been resolved and with the next song Dreaming Light Daniel just concentrated on a single acoustic guitar. This danced around the Minster, gently echoing amongst the Gothic arches of the building - a stunning place for the band to play. And it was the first time that Lee Douglas had sung this particular song live, her voice carried beautifully and confidently.
They were then joined by the full band plus cello player for what was voted the Prog Anthem of 2014, Anathema. Here Vincent Cavanagh's voice carried majestically around the Minster, with a power that isn’t as apparent in a rock environment. In contrast Ariel, a song very precious to Daniel Cavanagh, was described as having been rethought. Lee’s voice was beautiful and moving, and the added cello continuing to make this a powerful piece of music, which in my opinion wasn't that different to the original.
Daniel stated that Electricity had never been played live before, but this wasn't quite true as it has been in the set earlier in their career and did pop-up occasionally in set lists as recent as 2011. This was followed by Temporary Peace described as an old fan favourite from back in the day, 2001 to be precise, which showed the range of material and albums the band are able to pull music from.
The Beginning And The End from the Weather Systems album saw Daniel back to creating loops of guitar and drum sounds as well as bass sounds even though there was a bass player in the band. Vincent downed tools and just sang, looking very comfortable without the guitar giving him the opportunity to be more dynamic, all of the musical pressure being on brother Daniel's shoulders.
Back to more recent material and the title track from the last album Distant Satellites saw Daniel back to using the loops for another slice of layered sound. Interestingly the middle section had a very Tangerine Dream-esque feel to it, being highly reminiscent of Cloudburst Flight. Last song of the set was Take Shelter again with Vincent's voice filling the cavernous Leeds Minster.
The encore included Internal Landscapes and Fragile Dreams. Sandwiched between them was Natural Disaster which the band asked everyone to hold up their mobile phones… or lighters but try not to burn the place down. It included the use of mirror balls with the light dancing around the Minster creating a heavenly feel.
Anathema nailed this first gig of their short acoustic tour of cathedrals. Getting the loops going was a bit long winded but necessary. It will be interesting to see if more bands start to tread down the path to the altar. So far it has only been a few but in the case of Anathema it was a huge success.
Words & Photos: Anthony Firmin