Anathema @ The Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW Australia 08/12/2017 written by Brendan Lewis.
Come, close your eyes, and come dine with me, as we’re taken on a Universal tour by progressive-rock pioneers Anathema, as they tantalise and electrify our senses. Judging by the car batteries on the stage and the jumper leads running into the crowd, I’d say quite literally…… Just kidding. This show is no joke however, and is to bring to life music from the bands latest album ‘The Optimist’, plus beloved classics of course… I can’t help but feel optimistic about this blend of sights, sounds, and feelings, that is likely to leave us in a comatose state, as if we’re within a fragile dream, soaring through thin air to distant satellites…
As the lights go down and the audience cheers, the little sight that I have left is instantly stimulated and fixated on the graphics playing on the screen at the back of the stage. My ears’ attention is now snapped to attention with the sound of the bands’ instrumental track off their touring album ‘San Francisco’, and as the crowd start clapping to the piano rhythm of the song, drawing the band out onto the stage in time for the drum beats drop, the on-screen graphics are visually interpretative of the music (I’m told), and I’m left with a suspenseful excitement. The excitement is heightened as the lights build up with the drum beat, bringing a massive cheer from the audience as lead singer Vinny emerges onto the stage in time for the next song…
After that musical taste bud teasing entrée, the first course of this main meal comes with a bit of spice, as Vinny’s smooth rich vocals are brought in with an up-beat texture to, not the opening song off the touring album as expected, but to ‘Can’t Let Go’ which is then flowed seamlessly into beautifully contrasting track, debuting female vocalist Lee’s exquisite voice as leading vocals, ‘Endless Ways’. The spice of ‘Can’t Let Go’ is accompanied by a dense and very prominent layer of bass, but thankfully Vinny’s voice still floats smoothly atop it, in front of a back-drop of visually enticing graphics on the screen. Vinny’s harmonious vocals are swiftly elevated from a calming mist swirling around the sharp anxiety building beat and rhythm, to an out-burst of fleeting emotion with spine tingling high’s, with Lee’s harmonies filling the space around Vinny’s voice beautifully. Like a cool refreshing breeze on your skin after an inferno of musical power, or a palate cleansing dash of sweetness to a hot and spicy dish, the audience are in complete silent captivation, as Lee’s sweet and sensual voice takes lead for ‘Endless Ways’. The electric drum beats mixed with enlightening piano melodies with Vinny now in harmony to Lee’s stunning voice as the song builds up, is the perfect atmospheric contrast and with the complimenting graphics on the screen behind the band, sends us on a worldly adventure of euphoria.
The previous song is again seamlessly flowed into the next dazing song ‘The Optimist’, but I ran out of space in the last paragraph to add the fourth song in to the flow… sorry, did I shatter the fragile dream you were in of the show? Back we go…
After a quick “thank you Sydney!” from the band, the next string of visually and aurally kaleidoscopic tracks, features ‘Lost Song Pt 3’, ‘Barriers’ and ‘Pressure’ The on-stage screen behind the band displays the respective album art for the album each track is from which sets the appropriate tone for each. ‘The Lost Song Pt 3’ featuring the ‘Distant Satellites’ artwork gives off a longing, emotional desperation feeling, which the band perform exceptionally with sound and movement around the stage. The mood is then moved to a dark swaying feeling, with the mystifying melodies on the piano and dual layer vocals in haunting harmony with one another, riding 3/4 ballad rhythm, entrancing us all in ‘Barriers’. The mood is slightly interrupted by the lights sweeping side to side, which would be quite complimenting to the swaying sound, if they weren’t out of sync to the beat and does give me the feeling of a lightly over-cooked element in a meal, giving an out of place touch. Now Vinny formally greets us with “Good evening everybody” and has a fun quick chat to us all, which is then followed up with an awkward pause and I’m sure something visually amusing from Vinny, as a chorus of laughter breaks out from the crowd before the band lead into ‘Pressure’. This song continues the darker setting like a red wine with a meal, but instead of it being more haunting, it’s now a sexy luscious temptation, featuring a steady pulse of the drums while Vinny’s voice softly lays above Lee’s harmonies… I think we all know where this fragile dream just went… ohhhhh yeah! Now to get your filthy mind out of the gutter, both the guitar and bass grow heavier, slowly erecting the song until it climaxes in a sweat of Vinny and Lee’s powerful voices in the final chorus, throbbing with emotion, in an in-sync collaboration with each other, generating the atmosphere around them and then finally, instigating a pounding clap along from the audience in the songs’ instrumental section, exciting the audience’s senses. See, your mind’s out of the gutter now aye?
Now that the show has heated up, explored diverse frontiers and displayed a spectrum of colourful sights and sound, the band feed us with tracks such as ‘Panic’, ‘Thin Air’, ‘A Simple Mistake’, the Celtic sounding (to me anyway) piano melodies of ‘The Beginning And The End’, ‘Universal’ and ‘Closer’ before heading off stage for a breather, before returning for an encore.
'Panic’ is appropriately titled, as the beat is more up-beat and confronting than any previous song. With Vinny’s vocals now being quick, sharp and biting in the verses, with the lights going wild in colours and patterns, the wicked guitar riffs and the band moving around with agility as Lee’s soaring harmonies take over in the chorus, it hasn’t sent fear, anxiety or panic through the crowd, instead has thrilled and excited us and has us all bopping away. Vinny now tries riling us right up after the song, but upon failing, confesses, “I tried making you rowdy with that last song, but you’re too polite!” bringing a wave of laughter from the audience.
The lights now are dull and temporarily absent, as electric drum beats bring forth ‘Outside Inside’ which steadily graduates in suspense, then flows into fan favourite ‘Thin Air’. As soon as the audience recognises the song, a cheer erupts and a clap along to the beat starts, bringing in Vinny’s soft delicate vocals. If you know the song as it is normally (which you should) you know it builds up until it dramatically explodes in an out-cry of tantalisingly soaring vocals, before it changes completely, yet flows brilliantly not making the change too foreign like going from one planet to another, or having curry after bangers and mash. What makes the live rendition more exciting and simply more, than the recorded version, is Lee’s delightful harmonies assisting and carrying Vinny’s flying voice arm in arm with her own, plus the crowd singing along in an echoing symphony and the addition of a “wah-wah” guitar effect nearing the songs’ finish.
Now for another fan favourite, ‘Universal’, this worldly track sends an aura of calming yet captivating essence, with it’s classically retrospective sound, with symphonic strings, classical sounding chord progression in a haze of dark blue C-minor if my ears are correct, and swaying ballad beat, which is made modern with electric drum sounds in the songs’ beginning. The drums are transitioned into acoustic pads after the first calming chorus, to help build the gravity of the song, as Vinny’s vocals too elevate in the second chorus to stunning levels, perfectly accurate to the recording, accompanied again by Lee’s assistive harmonies. The song now bursts into a flurry of guitar riffs, strings and drum beats, before the piano sends a cool sudden rush of change, for the dark, sorrowful felt instrumental change. Just like planets colliding or the sense of excited shock as you bite into a decadent dessert, Vinny leaves his post on the stage, jumps down, and in perfect reflection of what he did in this exact section of this exact song three years ago, puts his arm around me and sings in my ear “and you” which I mimic back to him before he asks me “you remember from last time?” of course, how could I forget such a euphoric memory! After sending shockwaves of excitement through me, Vinny now stands up on the barrier step next to me to interact and connect with the audience on a more intimate level, before returning to the stage in time for his guitar solo.
Finally, the band finish this amazing set… for now, with ‘Closer’. This songs instrumental sound may get too repetitious and laborious at times, but its electric sounds, piano melodies and thumping drums which we all clap along to as the band rev us up to cheer and clap, finishes the set brilliantly, and sets the vibe like a meteor shower as that decadent dessert electrifies your taste buds.
After a quick breather, the band return onto the stage for the last six songs which include the dance provoking electric trance dream ‘Distant Satellites’ and is beautifully capped off with my personal favourite ‘Untouchable Pt 1’ and then flows into ‘Untouchable Pt 2’ After Vinny stifles shout outs of song requests from a few crowd members informing them “no, we’re not playing that” with a chuckle, the last two songs are a perfect display of what this show has been. The climactic reign of powerful confessions of shooting star emotions in part one, sends a massive rush of adrenaline and euphoria through me and makes it impossible for me to not sing along. And finally, Lee’s passionate exquisite vocals lead in Part 2 with Vinny in harmony until they both sing in lead, in the songs’ bridge and final chorus. This gets the whole audience singing along, amplifying the out-cry of emotion in the song as it resonates throughout the venue, sending hauntingly beautiful shivers down my spine, and with improvisations in the piano melody, makes this a truly remarkable finish to the show!
Exquisite, beautiful, colourful, entrancing. That’s my four word summary of this show! I’m deeply saddened at how pop music has the title of being the “popular” genre, when in comparison to Anathema’s music, profusely lacks bold, raw musical quality and talent outlasting time itself! Please, if you appreciate music and talent and you haven’t checked these guys out please do, and I strongly urge checking out their memorable live concerts!