Into the Pit: 071: Anathema – Live at Carling Academy Sheffield – 06-November 2008

Support act Demians, who I’d heard glowing things about from others previously, were an interesting proposition. At least a partly-French band, they are what could probably be called one of the modern faces of Prog Rock. Lengthy songs with an epic scope, that didn’t always work entirely but left me with a positive impression, particularly after closing song The Perfect Symmetry left my jaw on the floor.

Live @ Carling Academy, Sheffield
06 November 2008

It was pretty clear, however good Demians were, that the majority of the crowd there were for Anathema and Anathema only – and their appearance onstage saw them greeted like conquering heroes. Albeit a pretty small community – the venue was sadly little over half-full. This band deserve so much more than this, and should have been much bigger and reached a wider audience than they ever did.

Anathema setlist:
Far Away
A Simple Mistake
Anyone, Anywhere
Shroud of False
Lost Control
Temporary Peace
Are You There (Acoustic)
One Last Goodbye (Acoustic)
Fragile Dreams

And to prove my point, they proceeded to provide a near-two hour run through of most of the high-points of their long career, although not dipping into their earliest material. It all started with the driving power of Deep, and then the still strange vocal effects of Closer, before the now-very-old Far Away brought the first sing-along moments of the evening.

And after a short period where the two new songs, while both great, seemed to let the atmosphere drop a little, the ever-anthemic Empty‘s sheer force and bellowed chorus (with the whole crowd, not for the only time during the evening, assisting) brought things back to life with a hefty jolt. This was kept up, too, with Judgement eventually flowing straight into the light-speed (by this band’s standards, anyway!) of Panic.

The old songs just kept on coming, too, with every song serving as a reminder of just how many great songs the band have recorded, and it was also a welcome sight to see a band that have been going so long (and having dealt with so many setbacks in recent years) to see themselves enjoying themselves so much onstage, and even engaging in banter with fans that they recognised in the crowd.

The only truly acoustic songs of the night came at the end of the main set, first with Danny Cavanagh on his own onstage performing a moving Are You There, before he moved to the keyboards while his brother Vincent returned to centre stage with his guitar for an utterly extraordinary One Last Goodbye, and at no other point during the evening was it made any more stark that Anathema’s music and the themes that surround it is purely one borne of despair. Unquestionably, too, the best single live track I have heard in all of 2008 – fact.

The encore, as it was, was for a while a return to the very old, the very new and then old favourite Fragile Dreams to finish. And even after two hours, I was still left hankering for more. At long last, new album Horizons should finally appear in the new year, some six years after A Natural Disaster, and let’s hope it brings this oft-misunderstood band back into the limelight that they have always so richly deserved.

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