It feels like a long long time since I last saw Anathema headline in Scotland. The last time they played here, and were the main act, I believe was in 2014, but the last time I managed to catch them headlining was way back in 2008. Since then, I’ve seen them playing a few support slots over the years with the likes of Opeth and others, but these short sets never really compare to a full show, so I was really looking forward to seeing them again tonight. It’s early doors at this Glasgow venue, a 6pm start. Yep, you read that right, 6pm on a Friday night. The Garage is a great venue, but their gigs are far too early. Needless to say, when I arrive at 6pm there are very few people there. Very probably some of the audience are still at work, or perhaps desperately shovelling down a quick meal before racing to the venue.
Hailing from Bagnols-sur-Cèze in France, Alcest are the special guests this evening. At 6:45pm, they hit the stage, and thankfully, the Garage has filled up considerably. There’s a good turnout for these guys, and I spot a few Alcest t-shirts in the audience. Luckily, the band only comprises of four members. If there were any more, I’m not sure they would have fitted on the stage. Anathema have a fair amount of gear, and Alcest really have been squeezed into the remaining space. Drummer Winterhalter occupies stage right, as there’s no room at the back, but considering the lack of elbow room, the guys make the most of it, and are pretty animated as they launch into opening track “Onyx”, from their latest 2016 release “Kodama”. Bass player Indria Saray, in particular, is just a mass of flailing hair throughout the set. Their brand of “blackgaze” music (a term I only came across recently, but describes this genre fairly well) goes down a storm with the crowd, and the response brings a smile to Winterhalter’s face. Half of the set tonight is made up of songs from “Kodama”, but they also dip into all of their previous albums, apart from their debut. Alcest aren’t a band I know very well, but by the time they play their last song “Deliverance” they’ve won me over, and I’m sure have made quite a few more fans here in Glasgow. I was very impressed with them, and if you’re planning to catch Anathema on this tour, be sure to turn up early, as Alcest are a band worth seeing.
Once Alcest’s gear is removed from the stage, all that’s left is a mere two drum kits, a paltry three keyboards, a laptop, a projection screen, and a range of guitars. This not inconsiderable number of instruments however seems to be causing the roadies some headaches, and it appears, by the number of torches on stage and guys running around, that not everything is running to plan. As the lights dim, the hall is filled with the sound of “San Francisco”, we’re treated to a video backdrop of oceans and cityscapes, and the band members take to the stage to massive cheers from the now packed auditorium. Unfortunately, technical problems seem to persist through the first couple of songs as a roadie, looking like he’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown, rushes around the stage playing with cables etc.. This doesn’t, in any way, mar the bands performance on the first two non-instrumental tracks, “Untouchable Part 1 & Part 2”, which are just awesome, and a great way to start off the gig. To my ears, I didn’t hear any technical problems. The sound was perfect.
“You know we recorded the album here in Glasgow…. love this place” Vincent Cavanagh tells the crowd. Throughout the show, both Vincent and Danny chat to the audience, and have a real rapport with the fans, which, for me, makes the difference between a good gig and a great one. At one point, Vincent jumps down into the photo pit, and chats with members of the crowd during a song. Lee Douglas stuns everyone tonight and showcases her beautiful voice during “Endless Ways”. With only piano accompaniment, she wows the crowd. When Danny isn’t rocking out with his brother Vincent, his eyes are closed, and he really looks like he’s in the zone. Even after all these years, these guys still look like they love playing live.
“Does it sound good? Does it sound ok?”, asks Danny, and it’s a resounding yes from everyone here. On record, Anathema can come across fairly bleak at times, but it’s a real party atmosphere here tonight. Songs like “Thin Air”, from 2010’s “We’re Here Because We’re Here”, get the smiling crowd clapping along. “Oh, and it was all going so well” laughs Danny as they have a false start for the track “Closer” and have to restart it. I’ve seen bands use projected videos before, and in the past, I’ve caught myself watching the screen rather than the band. Anathema manage to do it right however, and the video enhances the live experience, rather than being a distraction. Abstract and amorphis shapes swirl on the screen behind them, exploding into firework like patterns during the song, and it’s another winner with the audience. “It’s 10 O’clock, but the people at the Garage said we can have one more song”. Guitarist Danny starts playing some Pink Floyd, and I have to say it was a bit of a WTF moment for me. I’d seen the set-list before the gig, and was hoping for “Fragile Dreams”, but after my initial disappointment, the song morphed into the “Alternative 4” classic, which had probably the biggest cheer of the night.
It’s been a great evening, and Anathema delivered an exceptional performance, featuring 90 minutes of some of their best material. The tracks from the new album fit seamlessly alongside the older favourites, although most songs were taken from 2003’s “A Natural Disaster” onwards. This is the first date of the tour for the new album. Try and catch them if you can in a city near you. You won’t be disappointed.
Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles
Oiseaux de Proie
Percées De Lumière
Untouchable Part 1
Untouchable Part 2
Leaving it Behind
Can’t Let Go
Beginning and the End
A Natural Disaster
Review: Martin Patterson
Images: Lara Vischi