@ The Rosemount Hotel
When it comes to the live music forum it is, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, the duty of an artist to establish an emotional connection with an audience, and for them in return to reciprocate. It’s a sacred bond between two such entities and is the fundamental basis for a truly memorable live show, one that lives on in the memory for years to come.
Sometimes, things don’t always turn out that way.
Touring Australia for only the second time in their near-thirty year career, Liverpool prog rockers Anathema rounded out their 2017 Australian tour in support of their album The Optimist in Perth on a Sunday night and the small but faithful crowd were keen to get their first glimpses of the band live with the full lineup. Their first tour, a little over two years ago, was a stripped back acoustic affair that provided all those who saw them with an intense, emotional experience that runs deep through the very heart of their songs. And this tour promised to be a similar deal.
The night started in fine form with a short but immensely focused set from local trio Skygazer. Opening with Polarize, the piece set the pace an atmosphere for their whole set. There are elements of a driving melodic structure inherent in their songs, all capped off by vocalist Daniel Mazzarol’s introspective vocal delivery. Their sophisticated stage setup allows the trio to create a rich tapestry of textures that melds shoegaze-like verses with heavier choruses and the twin guitars of Mazzarol and Mason Tate interweave like perfect lovers. Songs like Nowhere and Above You are driven by drummer Perry De Genarro’s attack and yet it’s as much about the space in the songs as it is about their playing. There’s a subtle restraint that underpins everything and makes for a unique and spellbinding experience. The perfect start to the evening.
And here’s where things sadly went somewhat askew.
After a lengthy interval, the opening sounds of 32.63n 117.14w gently rolled forth from the stage as vocalist Vincent Cavanagh took his place behind the keys and launched into the beginning of San Fransisco.
And then the sound cut out.
A clearly frustrated Vince was joined by the rest of the band and kicked into a vitriolic Can’t Let Go.
“We didn’t fly 10,000 miles to get mugged off by some dodgy gear”
the singer vented, and quite rightly so, however his comments and those of brother Daniel did somewhat spoil the mood.
Things were temporarily restored moments later as Vince introduced singer Lee Douglas;
“who’s going to make everything ok again”
and she did. Endless Ways is a typically inspired and gorgeous journey through heartfelt plaintive vocals huge piano chords before their signature delay-soaked guitar sounds pick up the pace and bring the piece to its immense crescendo.
Technical issues again reared their ugly head during The Optimist when Daniel Cavanagh encountered guitar problems. It’s immensely frustrating when technology fails you on stage at a crucial moment, and it was obvious that the band were clearly disappointed. Nevertheless, it was an inspired decision on their half to merge songs from the new album with its earlier companion piece A Fine Day To Exit, and hearing songs like Pressure and Panic were a treat. Likewise when they came out of the first chorus of Looking Outside Inside and went straight into Thin Air, a song that still ranks as one of the band’s finest efforts.
And in spite of all the obstacles placed in their path, there were moments of serious brilliance in their set. A Simple Mistake and Universal went some way towards achieving the same quality their live shows are renowned for, but these were sadly few and far between.
It was disappointing from an artist and audience perspective to have built up so much anticipation for these shows, only to fall and the final hurdle. Anathema are still an incredible force to be reckoned with, and the fact that they’d just played five gigs in five days meant that they were clearly exhausted by this final show and that much of that stunning emotional connection was diminished. Here’s hoping they make it back our way and that all the issues that plagued them are a distant memory, and we can bask in the light and shade of those glorious songs to full effect.
It all but broke my heart to have to do a write up like this, as I still believe Anathema are one of the finest bands out there today. To Vince, Danny, Jamie, Lee and Daniel – I’m truly sorry to be reporting on one of your shows in this manner and hope to be able to redeem myself sometime in the future. Until then, much love and safe travels. JH