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Ananthema envelop Manchester Cathedral in sound

Anathema - Manchester

If ever there were a perfect setting for a band like Anathema, it’d have to be a cathedral. Their soaring prog anthems scream to be worshipped and tonight, they shall. The spectacular Manchester Cathedral serves as a backdrop for this evening’s acoustic foray.

First up is a solo set from …And You Will Know us By the Trail of Dead frontman Conrad Keely. Tonight marks one of his first ventures into the solo acoustic arena, and whilst his full time project is adored the world over, tonight’s set leaves a bit to be desired. He treats the audience to covers, choice cuts from AYWKUBTOD and some new stuff from his upcoming album. All are delivered with the utmost attention to detail, but they still fail to draw in the crowd.

Then again, when the headliners are this exciting, you can forgive the crowd for their subdued reaction. Anathema come to the stage and the audience leaps into life; their cheers fill the vast expanse of the cathedral in an almost angelic manner.

The band launch into the spectacular “The Lost Song, Part 2” from their latest full length Distant Satellites, and as the first notes ring out, this setting makes perfect sense; Anathema are progressive in their most purest form. They have grown from their death and doom metal roots in the early nineties to this expansive and experimental band that utilise everything at their disposal to create their expansive sound work for them. Vocalist Lee Douglas’ soft and powerful vocals roll over the crowd as the band flow into the double hit of “Untouchable, Parts 1 & 2” before going back to their 2010 hit “Thin Air” where Vincent Cavanagh’s vocal really shines.

Tonight Anathema exist as a three piece, and the front of the band make the best of what they have. This is never more obvious than with Danny Cavanagh’s mastery of his multiple instruments, flitting between the piano and guitar with ease. Loop and delay pedals also bring textures and dimensions usually missing from acoustic shows.

The duo of Alternative 4‘s “Fragile Dreams” and Distant Satellite‘s “Ariel” feel like a match made in heaven. Their delicate yet dynamic performances charm the audience into a euphoric state. Vincent leaves the stage for Lee and Danny to deliver a stark and bluesy take on Portishead‘s classic “Glory Box“, and Lee truly makes the song her own and will all eyes on her she pulls off a perfect performance.

Lee leaves the stage to be replaced by Danny, who by this point is slightly tipsy. He breaks into a solo performance of Kate Bush‘s hit “Running Up That Hill” which after the disaster of that Placebo cover actually brings back some faith that the song can in fact be covered without it being torturous and contrived. Despite being somewhat rough around the edges, it has a charm that can forgive its foibles.

The band return to the stage for shimmering performances of “Distant Satellites” and “A Natural Distaster” before they all depart the stage again, leaving the crowd begging for an encore – and what an encore we receive. Pink Floyd‘s prog super hit “Another Brick In The Wall Pt.2” triggers a singalong that envelops the entire audience.

As the final notes play out and we have to leave a pang of sadness hits. This wasn’t just any show; this was something special. Anathema have shown that any standard venue isn’t good enough for them any more. Back to the cathedral again next time? Here’s hoping.

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