Ending their UK leg of the fantastic Optimist tour, the mood tonight at Shepherds Bush Empire is one of quiet anticipation. Winners of the coveted Prog “Album of The Year” award a mere two weeks ago, the wind is well within Anathema’s sails. With much of the audience hitting the over 30’s mark, this is hardly going to be the likes of a Converge show.
As the lights slightly dim and the crowd is politely hushes, fittingly, French mourners Alcest take to the stage. Combining elements of Post Rock and horrendous Black Metal, its clear to see that on the top tiers this could be a little much for some of our more mature of audiences. Spanning from the reserved soundscapes of newer material the likes of “Eclosion” from their recent offering Kodama to their more Black Metal leanings on the likes of the “black gaze” that was Les Voyages de L’ame special “Autre Temps“. A small thank you delivered at the end of each powerful track, Alcest are, like their music a modest bunch. Getting to the end of their set the grand finale of “Delivrance” is a perfect closer that sees our crowd warm to the band despite their somewhat frosty beginning.
After the French dutifully take their leave the stage is set for the return of the Scousers and their brand new album. With a stage decked out with two drum kits, keyboards, vocal mics and a small piano,its completed by the beautiful backdrop. The beauty that lies in an Anathema set list is the juxtaposition of seeing the band evolve from the likes of feel good “Can’t Let Go” to title track “The Optimist”, its climactic and often incredibly dramatic conclusion then returning back to the pin drop quiet as Daniel Cavanagh brings the song home with the final sombre lead lines.
Anathema seem to draw the perfect balance between an infinitely positive yet, infectiously melancholic output. Exemplified in the lachrymose tones of “Dreaming Light”. For those who might have been doubting vocalist Vincent Cavanagh’s ability, the absolutely earth shattering rendition of “The Beginning and The End” that could and probably did bring a fair few men to tears, not to mention showcases brother Daniel Cavanagh’s serious chops, who brought that Scouse no nonsense to an immediate level after a fan was acting silly. Getting off stage to “sort him out” it was a collective victory that all Shepherds Bush shared.
Given a band of this stature Anathema expertly choose a set list that would cater to fans old and new. However undoubtedly a highlight has to be the twinkling of “Springfield” as the band politely ask the audience if they can turn their phones on as the mirror ball is lowered creating a truly beautiful spectacle. Stand out moment that is “Distant Satellites” brings an almost sense of tribal force into the room as Vincent Cavanagh follows his two drum counterparts with the imperial bang, building with the fierce red light to an impeccable climax.
After a brief repartee between the brothers and a short but sweet thank you, guitarist Daniel Cavanagh treats us to a pitch perfect rendition of Floyd classic solo intro “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” but its the inspired move into “Fragile Dreams” that has the entire venue up and out of their seats delivering a standing ovation to our most gracious of hosts. Promising “big things next year” the band exit the stage, leaving brother Daniel to deliver two tracks solo accompanied by Lee Douglas who I should mention delivered an outstanding performance tonight, proving what a vital part of the band dynamic she is. Delivering an absolutely astounding set here tonight at Shepherds Bush, Anathema have proven why they’re not only worthy of an album of the year accolade but why they are one Britain’s most genius bands.
Anathema are on tour right now, make sure you do not miss them or at the very least give The Optimist a listen, you won’t regret it.