At the time of its release in June, Daniel Cavanagh called Anathema’s 10th album Distant Satellites “the culmination of everything we’ve been working on”.
Venue: 02 ABC, Glasgow
Liverpudlians perform Distant Satellites in Glasgow.
And this show, featuring six of its tracks in a 14-song set, emphasises just how sincerely he means that. It’s best proved by the fact that you really could draw a line from Fragile Dreams – the oldest song to appear tonight – to Thin Air, Ariel, Anathema and all three parts of The Lost Song.
Opener The Lost Song Part 1 is delivered in a slightly more subdued style than on record, with the effect of drawing the 350-strong crowd in like they’re hunching over a campfire. That dynamic makes it easy for the band to achieve their full mesmerising effect as the track really kicks in.
There’s something more confident, collected and authoritative about the new material. The slightly more electronic angle, spearheaded by John Douglas’ recent studio experimentation, is added to their sound with taste and balance, rather than overwhelming the original humanity.
But while there’s more sheen than ever before, there’s still all the honesty that’s always made Anathema work – not least when Vincent Cavanagh gets the words wrong near the beginning of Untouchable Part 1, or when the rhythm section go slightly awry during The Lost Song Part 3. Those tiny mistakes show what kind of game they’ve brought: their arrangements are so closely considered and gingerly built that even a small error can burst the moment. That’s why they need, and receive, the crowd’s full support.
Amid a minimalist lighting show of red and blue washes, the focus is fully on the compositions. The crowning glory is probably Ariel, a perfect exercise in ‘less is more’ – the well-measured distance between the drums, the supporting chords and the vocals generates a feeling of dramatic scale and power, and the result is to push the walls of this small room many miles further away.
By comparison, old favourite A Natural Disaster demonstrates how the nuts and bolts of perfection were always just waiting to be tightened. They ask for and are given the space they need to move between moods. Their expressions show genuine delight at how their performance is working, summed up after Untouchable Part 2 when Daniel looks at his colleagues and says, “OK, wow.”
There’s not much place for banter, although there’s time for Vincent to tease Lee Douglas over her shoes – “She’s got rather smashing pumps on. Ay, this is River Island, girl!” – and explain how they spent all night at a Mogwai show using fake Scots accents: “Fucking brilliant, by the way!”
After pausing to touch on politics (“Anyone know Malcolm Tucker? Another example of what Westminster’s really like.”), Vincent admits he can’t believe it’s nearly over. “Tonight’s flown by,” he says. “It’s been like five minutes. It’s the first time we’ve sold out in Glasgow.”
“You’ll be in the big venue next time!” a punter calls back, and everyone knows it – it’s been an ‘I was there’ moment. And to prove it, the held chord at the end of Fragile Dreams is kept resonating for a shamelessly self‑indulgent amount of time.