Almost a year has passed since the last series of dates by Anathema in the UK,
so it was a pleasant surprise to see them announce a couple of low-key dates, of
which the London one was the first. The band have been quiet since the release of
A Fine Day To Exit, but it would appear that the band members have been investing
time in their own projects.
One of these is the second of the two support bands Ship of Fools, who were an
outfit started by Anathema keyboard player Les Smith in the first half of the 1990's
and which pre-date his time with the Black Metal band Cradle of Filth and who
dis-banded after his departure. Having re-mastered the band's various demos for
a retrospective release on the UK's Peaceville Records, Les decided that it would
be nice to play the music live once again and assembled a 6 piece band consisting of
drums, bass, two keyboard players including himself and two guitar players, including
Anathema's guitarist Danny Cavanagh.
In contrast with much of Anathema's music and certainly in stark contrast to that
of Cradle of Filth, the music of Ship of Fools is quite progressive, incorporating
the sounds of an early Pink Floyd with some 90s Dance/techno samples in a similar
way to Ozric Tentacles or Porcupine Tree and some of Steven Wilson's solo projects.
Of these band's I would most liken them to Signify era Porcupine Tree.
The band played a 30 minute set incorporating vocals and spoken samples on a
backing tape and while visually there was little that was remarkable about them,
the music was sufficiently interesting and engaging for me to want to check out
their disk. Whilst the music was unlikely to be typical listening for much of the
audience, the hall remained full and the applause from the crowd at the end of the
set was warm and appreciative.
With a tight schedule, the changeover time was a mere 15 minutes, but the
fact that much of the equipment was shared by the bands meant that this was no
problem and Anathema went on stage, as scheduled, at 9PM. The setlist was very
much centered on the material from the
A Fine Day To Exit album, with 8 of the albums 9 tracks being performed.
One sensed that many present in the audience would have loved to have heard
more of the older material, but the band, never ones to compromise, handled the
situation very well and sandwiched a few older 'classic's in between longer tranches
of the newer material. The set began with perhaps the two best known tracks from
A Fine Day To Exit in the form of Release and Pressure
which are well known and energetic enough to make for a powerful start to the
set. The sound was a little more 'raw' than on CD, particularly in terms of
Danny Cavanagh's guitar sound, but not so much so that it detracted from the
This was followed by Underworld, "Another one we couldn't
play the last time we were here", as frontman Vinnie Cavanagh explained.
They then played a couple of tunes from the marvellous Judgement album
in the form of the melancholic Forgotten Hopes and the brief instrumental
Destiny is Dead. Popular tunes indeed, but not quite as popular as the
next tune, Angelica from the Eternity album which Vinnie
dedicated to some friends who have travelled from Birmingham for the concert.
The crowd simply exploded with joy as Vinnie sang the first line
of lyrics and the tune remains one of the most beautiful and melodic the band
The setlist then moved back to the A Fine day To Exit material with
only the title track of Judgement dividing up a further 5 tunes from
the disk and acting as a neat bridge between the melancholic and reflective
Leave No Trace and the frantic energy of Panic. The albums two
final cuts A Fine Day to Exit and Temporary Peace have always
left me with a sense of something unfinished, so it was convenient that they
did not indicate the end of the set and merely allowed the band to move swiftly
into another hugely popular number Fragile Dreams. A mournful, angry,
emotive number it makes for another highpoint in the set and clearly delights
The final part of the set is sensational as the band stay with the Alternative
IV album for Inner Silence then move to Judgement for the
aptly titled One Last Goodbye, in which the lyrics speak of a lover
realizing that a relationship is coming to an end. Judgement's closing
instrumental track 2000 and Gone brings the set to a close and the
band reluctantly leave the stage.
There is no time left for an encore explains Jamie Cavanagh (bassist and
the third of the brothers in the band) and despite warm applause from the crowd
the venue's strict curfew means that the lights come up and the security staff are
soon shuffling the crowd outside. It was an excellent performance with the older
tunes definitely proving to be the most popular with the audience. However, with
that being said, the newer material does sound much better when performed live,
even if it sounds less progressive and more 'post-rock' than the preceding
couple of disks. The band's audience nevertheless remains loyal, but it remains
to be seen where the band's direction will take them next.