Anathema, Anna Phoebe: Anglican Cathedral, Liverpool

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Anathema Homecoming

Anathema’s homecoming in Liverpool

Another spectacular at the Anglican Cathedral, Getintothis’ Laura Coppin on the remarkable homecoming of Liverpool’s homegrown prog-rock heroes Anathema.

When Anathema announced they would be finishing their series of acoustic cathedral dates in none other than Liverpool’s own Anglican Cathedral there was little doubt that it would be an astonishing show. On the night itself, under the Anglican’s looming shadow, a long snaking queue made manifest the tangible anticipation of their fans as they waited for the doors to open.

The show, of course, was sold out; unsurprising considering the last time Anathema played their home city was five years earlier, a one-off (similarly sold out) date at the Cavern Club to raise money for Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

Even as people filed to their seats the scene was spectacular – the stage dwarfed beneath the huge, vaulted ceilings overhead and the magnificent organ pipes flanking each side. Even at this point in the evening the lighting was beautiful, illuminating detailing in the stonework and casting intricate shadows against the walls.

First to take to the stage was the supremely talented violinist Anne Pheobe, who was joined by the equally gifted Nicolas Rizzi on guitar. One might think that a single violin and guitar would struggle to fill the cavernous space, but the depth of sound the two created belied their simple set up. Interweaving raw, soaring violin notes with complex and fluttering guitar work, Anne and Nicolas had the audience enthralled. The song Bombay to Beirut was particularly good – beautifully exotic and heavy with Middle Eastern influence.

It was Anathema that the crowd was really waiting for however, and as Danny Cavanagh, Vincent Canavagh, and Lee Douglas took to the stage they erupted into enthusiastic applause which echoed around the room. As the first notes of The Lost Song, Part 2 rang out it became abundantly clear that the show was going to more than live up to the hype that had surrounded it, setting the tone for rest of the evening.

Despite one or two minor issues (centred around the fact that the band were filming the show for an upcoming DVD release) the set was flawless, each song rendered beautifully using a remarkably minimalistic set up.

One of the most unusual pieces of kit on the stage was a looping machine, which Danny used to great effect to create some of the heavier rhythms and percussion. Both Lee and Vincent‘s voices soared to fill the vast space, creating an emotional atmosphere that was as raw as it was beautiful.

At different stages in the set John Douglas and Jamie Cavanagh also took to the stage, as did the brilliant cellist David Wesling . One of the stand-out songs of the evening was the self-titled Anathema, with the band making the decision to also bring Anna Pheobe back on stage to join them. The combination was haunting, keeping the audience rapt until the last notes rang out.

For sheer visual beauty however, it was A Natural Disaster which stole the show. The band plunged the cathedral into darkness, using only the light from the audience’s phones for illumination. Suddenly they filled the room with a breathtaking snowstorm of light, achieved by shining bright lights onto disco balls concealed either side of the stage. The effect was spectacular, a sight which will stay with Getintothis for a long time to come.

We can’t imagine a more fitting homecoming, and what a homecoming it was.

Photos by Getintothis’ John Johnson:

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4 Comments

  1. Lee gave an astonishing rendition of ‘A natural disaster’ but it’s not the one shown on the video here.

  2. We’re we at the same concert.? I am a long time devotee of Anathema. I quite simply love their music. But the performance at the Cathedral was not what is reported here. The band had serious difficulties with the sequencer and the acoustics. Telling the audience when they could and couldn’t sing, shout or clap took the atmosphere away. I think the band thought the crowd were quiet but they were the architects of the atmosphere. It was a real shame because the vocal performances simply soared. They were exceptional. as you say ” a natural disaster ” stole the show only to be followed by a disastrous performance of “fragile dreams” as an encore. The real shame for me is that had the drummer simply played the drums, the guitarist played guitar and the excellent singers sung this would have been a superb show. Sadly technology let the band down.

  3. I totally agrre with “DES”. This looping machine was the biggest shame of this gig. I can’t understand why the band didn’t want to play live and prefer to use this strange machine. BTW it looked really silly when musicians stood, didn’t touch instrument but music still playing.
    Big shame

  4. I agree – they seemed to be having a lot of issues with their tech and although I wanted this gig to be euphoric the energy I picked up from the musicians was frustrated and angsty. Telling the audience when they can and can’t get into the mood by clapping supportively is a huge no no. It put up a wall between us and them and spoiled the flow. We wanted to get behind you and sing and clap triumphantly but we told off for doing so by Danny. Vinny held the whole thing together and without him this gig would have really disappointing