» Blog Archive Anathema Return To NYC In Spectacular Fashion -
Evan Conway Hard Music, News, Reviews, Tours

DSC09108 (2)I’ve had Anathema’s Alternative 4  on my iTunes for as long as I can remember. Seriously, it has been there for an undisclosed amount of time and I have enjoyed that album time and time again over the years. It’s a product of where the band was mentally at the time, a phase in which they’ve evolved from, but there’s a certain quality to the music that makes it feel like the start of something, where it’s perhaps the band entirely leaving their doom metal roots and evolving into the progressive, symphonic, alternative rock outfit they’ve become. Yet nearly 20 years since that album’s debut, however, Anathema have only ascended as musicians, and if their dramatic return to New York City was a testament to their growth, we haven’t yet seen the full potential of this band.

The last time Anathema had toured the United States was in 2014 opening for HIM, but even before that their last headlining act was a co-headliner with French blackgaze act Alcest. By all intents and purposes, this appearance in NYC was the group’s first true headlining show. With only one opening act, the band covered much material over roughly an hour and forty-five minutes, delivering not only an arguably perfect set but one of the best live performances in any genre I’ve ever seen. Blending an overwhelmingly emotional act with a moody atmosphere, Anathema essentially schooled progressive rock acts on how to perform a near-perfect set.

DSC09077 (2)As mentioned, Anathema didn’t come alone for these shows. LA’s Silver Snakes served as the opening act, and ultimately had a positive reception among the crowd. The band emerged onto the stage, appearing as silhouettes, save for their drummer, who stood out from behind his kit due to it being wrapped in neon lights. Aesthetically, though, this was tastefully and matched the low lighting only display for the other three members on stage.

Along with a very energetic and dynamic stage presence, the band had their set together and timed to an almost perfect 30 minutes. A good impression overall, the band were definitely in luck playing for an audience with an open mind. Not polished and synthesized to be a mainstream rock band but gritty and heavy enough to be accessible and have some edge to their music, Silver Snakes definitely left a perfect impression in New York.

Rather remarkably, Anathema were hitting the stage at 8:15 to the joy of everyone. Not making the crowd wait, after a brief instrumental introduction, frontman Vincent Cavanaugh and his brother Daniel carried the band into both parts of “Untouchable.” Changing the key of the song, the entire piece felt refreshing and like you were hearing it again for the first time, with the band’s female vocalist Lee Douglas carrying the second part beautifully and perfectly.

DSC09147 (2)No one is questioning any of the band’s musical abilities, as everyone got their chance to shine and show what they’re capable of, but it was early on in the set that Ms. Douglas prove how quick to adapt she is. The band went to begin “Endless Ways” from their most recent release, only starting the song in the wrong key. It wasn’t until somewhere in the intro that they realized their error and laughed it off as any band should. However it was Ms. Douglas who actually went on to perform within the key they set, and presumably would have kept doing so if they elected to continue. Major props to her.

This setback the band laughed off humanized their entire performance considerably, which went on to show how authentic the actual show was. While backing tracks are not entire frowned upon for atmospheric purposes, the band had six people on stage and it was simply astounding to know that the band weren’t relying on any extra sounds, if little at all during their performance. The authenticity of Anathema has never been subject to question, and nor should it; the band makes it all happen on stage.

DSC09142 (2)As the set drew to a close with “Fragile Dreams” from Alternative 4, I had no further desires from Anathema. The performance itself was perfect, their song selection was ultimately satisfying, and they gave a legitimate full show, not taking any cheap shortcuts and making it one of the most real and organic performances I’ve seen in a good while. With worthwhile opening band in Silver Snakes on tour with them, you’d be damn sure this is a bill absolutely worth putting everything aside to witness live. It doesn’t get much better than this.

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