Anathema may have performed in a number of unique locations but tonight’s sold-out homecoming show, in this exquisite, cavernous cathedral, marks a triumphant point in their career.
Having been buoyed by the reaction and experience of performing in Gloucester Cathedral last summer, the concept of performing acoustically in such venues appealed to the band, and this spectacular building is the perfect backdrop for their affecting, often poignant music.
Anathema are positioned in front of the cathedral’s high altar which has been subtly lit to provide contrasting areas of ambient coloured light and deep shadow. Perhaps understandably, given the magnitude of this event, the band appear fleetingly affected by the surroundings, which, with camera booms gracefully floating towards them filming a DVD, only add to the ever-present sense of occasion.
Naturally, there’s visible emotion in their performance: they’re proud and in awe of their achievement at appearing in such a prestigious hometown location, in front of family, friends and ardent fans. Remarkably, considering the cavernous surroundings, the band’s sound fills it faultlessly. The opening songs are performed as a three-piece of vocalist/guitarist Vincent Cavanagh, brother Danny (keyboards/guitars) and Lee Douglas adding her entrancing, pitch-perfect vocals. The Lost Song Part 2 and both parts of the lush Untouchable perfectly suit the elegant location.
Looking out from on stage, the band are faced with a colossal, almost ominous black void and the only thing visible to them is a glowing, pink neon sign at the far end of the cathedral that proclaims: “I felt you and I knew you loved me”. The religious connotations are obvious, and it translates to something cathartic as Vincent Cavanagh eyes it while angrily delivering the lines ‘I’ve never betrayed your trust’.
Anathema’s quest for artistic and DVD perfection ensures that after a solitary, barely perceptible wrong note in Untouchable Part 1, the song gets a welcome second airing, and with this, all nervousness is eradicated. Tapping his acoustic guitar to emulate a bass drum, instantly recording and then looping the beat, Danny provides an unusual rhythm for the ever-bewitching Thin Air. They’re then joined by the full band, a cellist, and violinist Anna Phoebe for a quartet of songs, with Anathema sounding especially opulent.
Visibly moved at the conclusion of Ariel, the band embrace and appreciate every moment, yet remain personable throughout, somehow retaining an intimacy in this overbearing setting. With smoke effects and two shrewdly positioned glitter balls reflecting thousands of fireflies flitting around the hall, it’s a moment of wonder.
There’s visible emotion, with the band proud to be appearing in such a prestigious location in front of family, friends and fans.
A prominent and historical landmark that can be seen across the city, it seems appropriate that the “Dougies” and the “Cavs”, brought up three miles away in Anfield, have convened here for their ultimate communion. The performance is world class, and, referring to a now defunct local venue, Vincent wryly notes, “We’ve come a long way since The Grafton…”. That’s certainly true, but the chatter from the departing crowd anticipates countless, exceptional performances like this still to come.