Its a testament to the progress the Picturedrome has made over these last few years that they now have the privilege of hosting the opening night of Anathema’s November mini tour, rather than the latest Oasis or Stone Roses tribute band. The tour itself takes in several smaller UK venues, a brief trip to the prog friendly venues of The Netherlands and France, before the prestigious support slot to Opeth at Wembley Arena in late November.
The band have been holed up in a studio for the last few months, working on studio album number 11, and by their own admission have been feeling lonely and yearning to play for audiences again.
The event was billed as an evening with Anathema, promising a 2 hour set, including previews of the new music worked out so far.
The lights dimmed, the heavy doom laden backing track was silenced, and the band took the stage where they launched into the first new track of the evening. No clues were given to the title of this track, but the word “tonight” was prominently used. The track seemed to follow on from 2014’s cooly received Distant Satellites, with a glitchy, electronic backing track over which the rest of the band played. After the majesty of albums We’re Here Before We Are Here and Weather Systems, here’s hoping they don’t go do a Radiohead - after all, this is a band used to making bold changes of musical direction.
Lead singer, and one of the 3 brothers in the band, Vinnie Cavanagh hoped, at the songs conclusion, that we weren’t too freaked out by opening the set with a new track. The mainly silent audience, stayed silent.
Thankfully, we were quickly on familiar territory, with the magnificent, 11 minute or so Untouchable Parts 1 & 2 before leading straight into Thin Air. These tracks also saw the first appearance of female vocalist Lee Douglas to the stage, and all was well with the world. Similar to Mimi Parker in Low, Douglas add a beautiful, sweet softening to the main vocals and harmonies and I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing she was used more.
The rest of the first half of the set continued with mainly old stuff, much to the pleasure of the ever warming crowd. The exception was another new track (Springfield ?), sounding lovely and reassuring, before closing with the traditional Closer.
It was clear that the band were a little rusty, with Danny Cavanagh even forgetting to plug his guitar in at some point, and several issues with the sound mixing, but this eased as the evening progressed.
The second half opened with Distant Satellites, before 2 new tracks in a row. The first was introduced as “your new favourite Anathema song”. Again, both sounded familiar, yet a progression on recent albums and something to look forward to in the new year.
Fragile Dreams closed the evening, by which time the euphoria caused by the band meant we didn’t want it to end, and disappointingly there wasn’t a encore.
Always great to see this magnificent, if underrated band, even if it seemed a little like a warm up to a bigger event, which of course it was, but as a taster to album number 11, next year can’t come quickly enough.