Only four months after a great show with Anathema, Danny Cavanagh returned to Helsinki for a couple of acoustic shows. Not to perform solo, as he had done a few years ago, but together with Anneke von Giersbergen, who had last graced our city at Tuska 2011 together with the Devin Townsend Project. Both stressed their special relationship with Finland several times throughout the evening - Anneke fans might remember that her final show with The Gathering was at Ankkarock, not far from downtown Helsinki either. Originally, both gigs had been scheduled for Semifinal, a tiny club with a capacity of 150 people, but the Tuesday show was moved upstairs to larger Tavastia in response to great demand. I only went on Monday, but the following evening was filmed and may be available on DVD before long.
The concert was divided into three parts: first Danny solo, then Anneke solo, then both of them together. Echoing the recent Anathema show, Danny started with "Untouchable Part 1", but saved Part 2 for later and continued instead with other Anathema classics. "Deep" was followed by "One Last Goodbye" and "Are You There?", before the more recent output was recalled with "Angels Walk Among Us". As a bit of trivia, Danny mentioned that he had written this song while on tour in the UK "with a very popular band from Helsinki", presumably HIM. When people started clapping along to "Fragile Dreams", Danny hushed us up, but towards the end of the song encouraged everyone to clap and sing along.
After "Flying", Danny made way for Anneke, who played a mix of Gathering, Agua de Annique and cover songs. After "4 Years", someone also asked for the Devin Townsend song "Supercrush", but in vain - "if I could play that, I´d be a genius!", she commented with a disarming smile and launched into Cindy Lauper´s "Time After Time" instead. The request reminded me of how I had missed Anneke at the DTP gig a couple of months ago. Dev may be a genius, but Anneke´s a goddess. And an extremely likeable one at that. If it is true that - as she remarked after "Locked Away" - Dutch people, as opposed to Finns, love to complain about everything, then she must be a Finn at heart. After the rarely played "Circles", she finished her set with a stunning cover version of U2´s "Drowning Man" - and almost blushed when Danny upon returning to the stage exclaimed that this must have been her best solo set on their joint tours to date.
As usual, both Danny and Anneke made extensive use of loop pedals, not only sampling their guitar riffs but also vocals (Anneke) and percussion (Danny, produced by slapping the body of his guitar). Ending up slightly out of sync is a typical issue when looping oneself on the go, and it happened to both guitarists in a song or two, but they just joked about it and went on. Fortunately the device gave no trouble during the duo´s first song together, a breathtakingly beautiful cover of Massive Attack´s "Teardrop", for which Danny first looped the beat and a two-bar guitar riff, then went behind the piano while Anneke sang, and for the outro went back to the looper and put it on reverse. Simple but effective.
Another perfect piano piece was The Gathering´s "Leaves", after which both grabbed their guitars again for a rocking duet of "Hey Okay", during which Anneke at some point laughed out loud. Then it was back to serious mode for "Blower´s Daughter" (originally by Irish singer/songwriter Damien Rice), during which you could have heard a pin drop - until the comic relief of the last line, which countered the longing chorus line "I can´t take my eyes off of you" with a whispered "…until I find somebody new." The long-delayed second part of "Untouchable" followed right after, before the main set finished with the Dolly Parton classic "Jolene".
The encore - "You Learn About It" by The Gathering and Anathema´s haunting "A Natural Disaster" - was preceded by Anneke´s announcement that she would be back in spring with her full band, which sounds like another must-see. Although it may be just about impossible to top the stripped-down, yet absolute beauty of this very special evening.