Anathema live @ The Slade Rooms Wolverhampton, 16/02/2011

Brothers Cavanaugh in the flesh.

Anathema with Awake by Design and North Atlantic Oscillation

First off, I’d like to apologise for the absence of new posts on this site. I’ve been quite bogged down with other stuff, and three of my stories I wanted to post here I couldn’t earlier as they were a part of my Magazine production course at uni. But I’m back now, here’s the first one:

Waiting for Anathema to play at the Slade Rooms, the audience is treated to two support bands before the main treat of the evening: local melodic metal band Awake by Design and Glasgow-based electro-rock band North Atlantic Oscillation.

Awake by Design as the starting act brings the adrenaline with a rock band’s 101 of brashness and ferocity. Singer Adrian Powell lively jets around the stage, occasionally actually standing on the barrier in front of the audience to liven up the crowd and the band itself conveys an image of hardness through dressing. The music itself is not bad, but not memorable enough for a listener that is not acquainted with their music, however talented and energised the performers and the performance itself is. It did not turn off the audience of the main event, but was not perhaps the most fitting band for that particular event although the choice is understandable, considering Anathema’s roots as one of the originators of doom metal which for some fans is obscure.

After the head banging fest along came North Atlantic Oscillation, a trio of drums, two keyboards, guitar, bass and vocals, an impressive array of instruments for just three people, though somehow they make it work and seem effortless. Sam Healy plays guitar, keyboards and sings, Chris Howard deals with the other keyboard, bass and backing vocals and Ben Martin plays the drums, together creating a compelling soundscape for the audience. After hearing their set it actually makes me want to get more familiar with their music, which they offer for listening on their website and Youtube. A promising band indeed and a wise choice by Anathema to have NAO as their regular support band on the tour, NAO compliments Anathema’s music quite well with their gloomy but hauntingly beautiful music. The band hardly communicates with the audience, instead preferring to stay detached from the crowd which in a way makes the players seem distant in spite of the intimacy provided by the small venue itself and closeness of the stage.

For a band that has played for more than 20 years Anathema plays with a surprising freshness of expression but with the confidence and skill of an old band. Usually when an old band plays an album release tour, like Anathema are doing now, the band plays a hit single or two off the album and then proceed to play their older, bigger hits. Not the case with Anathema though. They fire off the concert by playing through the whole We’re Here Because We’re Here album track by track in order, after which they play some of their older songs.

The crowd reaction is instant; most know these songs already really well. The amount of younger listeners in the audience was notable, but did not overtake the older listeners who presumably have been listeners for a longer time. No wonder Anathema attracts attention so well, as their latest album was awarded ‘Prog album of the Year’ by Classic Rock magazine. The old songs do not pale in comparison to the new material in their live performance but just as much attention and feeling is given to both new and old songs.

The attention is painstaking in a slightly negative way too, as it seems on further thought that the live renditions are exactly the same as they are on record. Nothing new was brought into the songs, occasional solo here or there not withstanding. The songs are good as they are, but one should be able to expect something new from a live performance rather than note-for-note performances of recorded songs. But even as the songs were almost perfect reconstructions of the recordings, this only occurred to me as an afterthought of the concert, not during it.

Despite of the nigh-complete lack of improvisation, the performance was thoroughly enjoyable. Anathema manages to instil some sort of magic into their performance and bring a sort of intimacy into their playing with audience contact and rapport. Singer-guitarist Vincent Cavanaugh even requested for the lights to be dimmed in order for them to see the crowd and not just a wall of light.

A rather pleasing and enjoyable evening with live music, Anathema is indeed a band worth seeing live if alternative/progressive rock is at all your bag.

Oh, and the guitar Vincent Cavanaugh is playing is from the same town in Finland where I’m from. It’s an Amfisound Custom.


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