For most, the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool won’t instantly come to mind as a legendary live venue, but for Anathema, this monumental gothic building has always been a familiar, towering presence on their home city’s skyline.
Consequently, the opportunity to perform here earlier this year was, for the band, akin to playing the likes of the Royal Albert Hall, and became a stirring homecoming show overflowing with local pride, nostalgia and a rightful sense of accomplishment. The magnitude of the event was undeniable, and those who witnessed the acoustic performance first-hand will wonder whether the gig’s intensity could be captured on film. Fortunately, the band again utilised the directorial expertise of Lasse Hoile – who’d previously filmed their slick DVD Universal – and the result is almost as magnificent as the night itself.
The film is almost as magnificent as the night itself.
Only a handful of bands have the raw talent to perform perfectly when so musically exposed. Without the cover of soaring guitars or padded keyboards, vocals need to be pitch-perfect and the slightest mishap on acoustic guitar would also be cruelly highlighted. For all the inevitable nerves though, the band deliver an admirably self-assured performance. They open the set as a three-piece – Lee Douglas, and Vincent and Danny Cavanagh – and The Lost Song Part 2 and both parts of the ever-gorgeous Untouchable are a hefty reminder of how far Anathema have progressed from their early doom years.
Douglas has been central to that development over the last five years, with her delightfully soothing vocals adding an air of sophistication to the musical backdrop provided by the rest of the band, and neatly offsetting the Cavanaghs’ own idiosyncratic voices. Within the fragile setting of an acoustic show, it’s even clearer how pivotal she has become to the band’s ongoing success.
Rightly, the trio are joined by bandmates John Douglas and Jamie Cavanagh for a number of songs, with Internal Landscapes in particular benefiting from the inclusion of bass and restrained drumming. With the audience encouraged to use their mobile phones to provide an eerily illuminated backdrop, set highlight A Natural Disaster is intensely poignant, and a lively rendition of Fragile Dreams provides a fitting finale.
There are a few minor gripes – notably the occasionally shaky camerawork and the quest for visual perfection being thwarted by the practicalities of filming in a cathedral – but this remains a sparkling memento from an evening that will be tricky for Anathema to surpass.