Last night Anathema’s UK leg of their Satellites Over Europe tour came to an end with a sold-out Southampton show. The notoriously cramped and sweaty Talking Heads venue was the perfect place to play an intimate gig that would conclude a fantastic year for the band in the UK.
Support act, Mother’s Cake, who hail from Austria, opened the show with a high octane performance. My first impressions were of a band channeling the aggression of Rage Against The Machine with the progressive chaos of The Mars Volta, with a healthy portion of early Red Hot Chili Peppers funk mixed in for good measure. Vocalist and guitarist Yves Krismer was on top form, bellowing out his gritty vocals and sweeping effortlessly through his blues inspired leads. However, it was the combination of Jan Haubels’ manic drumming and Benedikt Trenkwalder’s intense slap bass that provided their set with energy, especially during their final song, where Trenkwalder’s incredible technique made sure everyone’s focus was on the bass player for once.
[Warning : Set-list Spoilers]
Half an hour later, Anathema took to the stage to begin their set with the beautiful first two parts of The Lost Song, mirroring the beginning of their latest album, Distant Satellites. For this tour new member Daniel Cardoso is behind the drum kit, whilst previous drummer, John Douglas, has been moved to a custom percussion style set-up, providing rhythmic depth to the lush orchestration which sadly, but understandably, could only be replicated via the use of recordings.
Anathema then moved into Weather Systems‘ dual-part opener, Untouchable, which was reproduced fantastically and had the crowd bellowing out its heart-felt lyrics. Female vocalist, Lee Douglas, really shone within the song’s second part, where her gorgeous vocals soar above the gentle piano melody and chord strumming. Anathema then continued to go back through their albums, choosing to play Dreaming Light from We’re here Because We’re Here, which let Vincent Cavanagh’s Scouse-tinged vocals float effortless above the ever increasing depth of sound beneath.
It was then time for Daniel Cavanagh to shine as the band returned to their new album to play the trilogy of Ariel, The Lost Song Part 3 and Anathema, which was dedicated to all the hard work their road crew do. Beginning with that gorgeous duet between Daniel Cavanagh’s soft piano and Lee Douglas’ serene vocals, Ariel soon evolves, until Daniel once again could shine with the indulgent sustain guitar lead that concludes the song. Both The Lost Song Part 3 and Anathema were well received too, echoing the continued success of their brand of emotional progressive rock.
The end of their set was then concluded by three very different tracks from different albums, showcasing their wide range of abilities. The Beginning and The End showed just how versatile the band are, with John Douglas returning to the kit and Cardoso moving across to piano duties. Next came Universal, which I initially thought the band would struggle to replicate in the small venue due to its exuberant orchestral nature, yet surprisingly the band pulled it off superbly; a great credit to the talent and effort every member puts in live. Finally, the ‘Daft Punk’-styled Closer rounded off the main set and once again showed just how good Anathema are at recreating the sound they achieve on records.
The encore was introduced by the musical interlude Firelight, which then led straight into the dreamy Distant Satellites just as on the album. This was followed up by Lee Douglas’ best performance of the night; a chilling rendition of A Natural Disaster, which allowed Douglas to show off her amazing voice. Finally the encore was rounded off with Take Shelter from the new album and Fragile Dreams; the only track to be played that was not from their last four releases.
Anathema put on a fantastic show and completely outplayed the small venue. They had great audience interaction, taking time to talk to the fans and Vincent even jumped into the crowd to help deal with an audience member who fainted during the encore. Anathema now start the mainland Europe part of their tour, playing almost every night until mid-way through November. If you get the chance now or in the future to see the six-piece I would most definitely recommend it.
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