Progressive rockers Anathema are back in Scotland. This is the first night of a European tour celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the band’s ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’ album. St Luke’s and the Winged Ox church is the setting and this show has unsurprisingly been completely sold out for a few weeks now. There’s a sizeable queue gathered before the doors open, lit up by the glare of a picturesque full moon.
There’s a ten-minute delay opening St. Luke’s doors and it’s only another ten minutes when opener Masvidal hits the stage. Subsequently, most of the attendees are still enduring the cold in outside’s queue. Paul Masvidal’s is most celebrated as half of ahead-of-its-time progressive metal/rock duo Cynic. Last year saw him release the beginning of a trio of albums entitled ‘Mythical Human Vessel’, composed from pieces of ideas conceived over a decade. Armed with just his guitar and voice, Masvidal takes us through a journey of tender, emotively charged and acoustic compositions. There’s an abundance of similarities to Elliot Smith but it sounds more multi-dimensional. Behind him, a projector screen displays a cosmic landscape.
The likes of ‘Parasite’, ‘Into the War’, ‘Beggars’ and ‘Hand to Mouth’ make you want to drift off through the cosmos’ energy centres. A version of Cynic’s ‘Wheels Within Wheels’ is dedicated to wildly talented ex-Cynic drummer Sean Reinert, a schoolmate of Masvidal’s who suddenly passed away earlier this year. Unfortunately, too many attendees in the filling up church talk over the calm music, frustratingly disruptive and not what Masvidal deserves. Still, there is something very special to this take on musical therapy.
Next up is Norway’s Rendezvous Point, a dynamic progressive metal act who waste no time opening with ‘Apollo’. The six-piece formed in 2010 and feature Leprous and ICS Vortex associations within their ranks. They have a pair of albums to their name, with the sophomore ‘Universal Chaos’ released last year. Their take on prog is a similar approximation to Leprous’ fresh reflections with a touch of Pain of Salvation’s earlier sensitivity. Drummer Baard Kolstad employs loud and expansive rhythms, rendering Rendezvous Point as impressively thunderous. Singer Giermund Hansen has a soulful essence to his voice, a true treat to hear.
The Norwegians are jovial on stage and the now-packed venue eats up everything they espouse. The sound is flawless as the band dishes out the likes of ‘Digital Waste’, ‘Resurrection’ and ‘Wasteland’. Rendezvous Point’s compositions are multifaceted with a fantastic breadth of emotion and talent. When they introduce ‘Mirrors’ as their wrap up track, it’s a real surprise as they haven’t been on the stage for even half an hour. Nonetheless, Norway has produced yet another sensational progressive metal act and here’s hoping they reach the levels of appreciation that they deserve.
Despite Rendezvous Point’s brief set, headliners Anathema get onstage over half an hour later. ‘Thin Air’ permeates the audience’s applause, gently easing everyone into ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’. Brothers Vincent and Danny Cavanagh are fantastic, not just as musicians but their on-stage chemistry is enviable too. They have no qualms keeping the fans smiling with their amusing banter. When ‘Thin Air’ ends, Vincent Cavanagh remarks that after the first song on the first date of the tour, he has cut his finger. Hopefully this bloodletting isn’t a bad omen!
It’s a treat experiencing ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’ in its entirety. It’s powerful, moving and touching, emphasised even more with a projector showing space-related videos. Both Cavanagh brothers handle guitars and keyboards at times, with Vincent switching between the two instruments and Danny playing both simultaneously every now and then. Vincent Cavanagh is also masterful on lead vocals, beautifully duetting with the band’s other vocalist Lee Douglas. Douglas particularly shines on the adorable ‘Angels Walk Among Us’. ‘A Simple Mistake’ is complex with its anxiety sensibility. The expansive ‘Universal’ fills up St. Luke’s before the band slips into the final song of the album ‘Hindsight’, almost meditative in its ponderous tone.
The second part of the set contains takes off with ‘Can’t Let Go’ from Anathema’s last album ‘The Optimist’. It’s notably more contemporary than ‘We’re Here Before We’re Here’ but undoubtedly bears the band’s trademark. This part of the set concentrates on the latter tail of their discography, with selections including ‘The Lost Song, Part 3’, ‘Closer’ and ‘Distant Satellites’ racing heartbeats. Lee Douglas takes her opportunity to shine with ‘A Natural Disaster’, complete with the crowd holding up lighters and phone lights for added illuminated effect. What gets the loudest reaction of the night is the opening notes of ‘Untouchable, Part 1’, followed by its second part closing the set. Most bands with a thirty-year career can only dream of music they wrote just 8 years ago being amongst their most treasured.
This was a brilliant night of emotive prog, doing away with the stereotype that the genre caters to white-haired men focusing on technicality in favour of emotion. The sold-out attendance proves there’s an insatiable appetite for modern prog rock in this city. Let’s hope this will encourage more prog acts to venture north of the wall.
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