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Two bands featuring three brothers each make for a rare package, and in this particular case a very exquisite one: the opener for Anathema´s two Finnish shows were Helsinki´s own Von Hertzen Brothers. Their multi-faceted progressive rock has gained them increasing popularity even abroad in recent years, and their trademark style perfectly complements present-day Anathema, so I was pleased to see the two of them together. However, the five-song opening slot did not really do VHB justice, for although their songs are on the longish side, it seemed that they were only getting into the flow, and receiving some serious attention from the audience, when it was already time for them to leave the stage. Maybe the problem was that the first three songs - "I Believe", "Angel Eyes" and "Always Been Right" - were from the latest album, which is in no way bad but doesn´t reach the heights of the previous two. Fortunately both of those were represented with one song each after all, although even "Kiss A Wish" and "Willing Victim" didn´t quite manage to create the excitement level I´ve been used to from VHB´s headlining shows.
Anathema started their set with "Untouchable" (Part 1 & 2), the hauntingly beautiful double opener of this year´s release Weather Systems. A good choice for setting the scene, as two thirds of the main set plus the first encore were taken from the band´s latest two albums. Of these two, I find the new one a good deal more accessible, and the live setting further confirmed this impression. The following four songs were all from the more serene We´re here because we´re here (2010), and not surprisingly, the crowd remained rather static throughout. In contrast, the enthusiastic response to the first chords of "Deep" proved that Judgement (1999) remains one of Anathema´s best-loved works. Another gem from the same album followed right after, the awesome "Emotional Winter" - from its slow synth/guitar intro to Danny Cavanagh´s perfect outro solo almost ten minutes later, it made for one of the dramatic highlights of the show. "A Simple Mistake" was dedicated to Von Hertzen Brothers, and the song indeed has a certain VHB vibe to it.
More band photos here Then it was back to Weather Systems for three tunes, starting with "Lightning Song". A perfect illustration of why incorporating Lee Douglas as a full band member a few years back was a good decision; over time her voice has become an increasingly significant element of Anathema´s soundscape, and rightfully so. On stage, this song sounds even better than the album version, and it turned out ot be an instant favorite with the audience. Clearly more so than the next two, although at this point the general mood had reached a pretty high level, which the band managed to maintain for the rest of the night. Before "The Beginning And The End", Vinnie Cavanagh introduced keyboarder Daniel Cardoso, stating that he was in fact an all-round talent and multi-instrumentalist, "but anyway he´s human - we made a DVD in Bulgaria the other day and he made a total fuck out of this song". Well, friends of mine attended that show and reported no discernible fuckups; it was staged at a Roman amphitheater with a full orchestra and should result in a pretty memorable DVD.
More band photos here "Universal" was the evening´s last, and seemingly most popular, track from We´re here…, followed by a round of ear candy from A Natural Disaster. A rousing "Closer" was followed by the title track, which had a rather detrimental effect on my eyeliner. Completed by "Flying", this trio of songs reaffirmed the status of the 2003 masterpiece as my favorite Anathema album. Which is not to take anything away from the new one, to which the band returned once more after a short break, starting their five encores with "Internal Landscapes". Introduced by a touching narrative of a near-death experience (taken from an actual documentary interview), the gripping ballad kept building up towards an emotionally charged climax in the form of another fabulous duetto by Lee and Vinnie before slowing down to a reprise of the narration - "I was peace, I was love, I was the brightness, it was a part of me". Keeping up the momentum, Danny then played a few notes of Pink Floyd´s "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and from there launched right into a heart-wrenching "Fragile Dreams".
More band photos here Just when I thought that was going to be it, Vinnie stated that they didn´t feel like leaving the stage just yet - "we want to give you your money´s worth! Here´s a song from our childhood…" - and the band surprised us with a rarely-played cover version of Metallica´s "Orion". It turned into another showcase for guitarist Danny rather than his brother Jamie on the bass, but never mind, it´s good to see that Anathema still honor their metal roots once in a while. The last two songs were "Panic" and "Empty", the latter culminating in a furious finale before the gig finally ended after close to two and a half hours - not quite as long, yet not much shorter than the gig Tavastia two years earlier to the day. During the outro, the guys clowned around on stage, took photos and filmed the audience, and when I left the club some 20 or 30 minutes later, there they sat at the merch stand chatting with fans and giving autographs. There´s some work ethic you don´t see very often, certainly not among domestic bands of the same caliber. It´s good to know you can always count on Anathema in terms of both quantity and quality.
More band photos here Setlist:
1. Untouchable, Part 1
2. Untouchable, Part 2
3. Thin Air
4. Dreaming Light
6. Angels Walk Among Us
8. Emotional Winter
9. A Simple Mistake
10. Lightning Song
11. The Storm Before the Calm
12. The Beginning and the End
15. A Natural Disaster