Anathema Make Epic Return To NYC 8-17-17

Anathema Make Epic Return To NYC 8-17-17

Nothing is impossible and, in life, always expect the unexpected. With patience, time, and persistence, one can make their dreams become a reality. A perfect example is Liverpool, England’s own Anathema. Begun as a Metal band – sharing the crown of Doom Metal pioneers with others such as Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride – Anathema has morphed into something far beyond the barriers of their original genre. Growing as both people and musicians while attaining success around the world, surprisingly, it took them over two decades before they finally made it to America for the very first time back in 2011.

A sort of trial by fire experiment, Anathema founders/siblings Danny and Vincent Cavanagh came for a limited acoustic tour in the spring of 2011 before officially making the leap to headlining as a full band in the fall of 2013. The result? Numerous sold-out affairs around the country, with one most notably happening on the evening of September 14, 2013  in New York City when they brought an excited energy to Gramercy Theatre. One of the most historic nights in their career, Anathema would quickly return in March of 2014 supporting HIM, but since, it has been a three-year absence. Having received but a taste, fans this side of the Atlantic built an insatiable hunger to the point where many wondered would Anathema return?

Well good things come to those who wait, and, on June 9th, Anathema released their eleventh studio album, The Optimist; a conceptual work with most of its focus on coordinates in the United States. This in mind, it would only be natural that a proper return to North America would follow, and that is exactly what transpired when Anathema set-down on domestic soil on August 16th for the first of a limited-time 9-show run. Opening up in Baltimore, Maryland, the band wasted little time to revisit the magic of their past visit to New York City nearly 4 year earlier as they returned to Gramercy Theatre on Thursday, August 17th. Feeling like déjà vu, yet another packed house assembled for an evening with endless possibilities.

Acting as direct support, California’s Silver Snakes came out shortly after 7 PM, setting the mood with incense burning slowly in the backdrop. Who exactly are Silver Snakes? They are a relatively young band consisting of Alex Estrada on vocals, Garrett Harney on drums, Mike Wood on guitars, and Mike Trujillo on bass. Currently supporting their third album, 2016’s Saboteur, Silver Snakes were humbled for the opportunity, making the most of their set-time.

Facing an audience who more than likely knew little about them as a collective, Silver Snakes pulled off a strong performance that grabbed many’s attention. From Estrada’s uncontainable vocals to Wood’s presence on guitar, Trujillo’s bass, and Harney’s unique beats, Silver Snakes offered more than one could have expected. Why? Because many did not know what exactly to expect and rather than being a typical opening act, Silver Snakes were uniquely their own. One part Industrial, another part Post-Hardcore, and another Hard Rock, they were all over the map. Unfortunately, their set seemed to be over in a blink-of-an-eye, but not without casting a lasting impression on the crowd. Certainly a band on-the-rise, Silver Snakes should be on everyone’s radar.

Following the opening performance, everyone was under the assumption it would be a good hour before Anathema took the stage. Actually running ahead of schedule, they were out and ready to go around 8:15 PM. A Rock-n-Roll band ahead of schedule, unheard of! Nonetheless, catching an eager crowd off-guard, as each band-member approached the stage, cheers came in waves. From the moment Danny took his position stage left; Lee Douglas on vocals, along with Jamie Cavanagh on bass, at stage right; with John Douglas on drums, as well as Daniel Cardoso on drums/keyboards in the back; it was a pure rush for the audience.

With the first key-strokes of instrumental track “San Francisco” filling the room, it was off along an unknown journey with Anathema as the driver; cruising through their set with ease. From the highly-emotional “Untouchable, Part 1” followed by “Part 2,” to newer track “Leaving It Behind,” Vincent was completely enthralled, giving every ounce of feeling needed into each song. It is clear why it is known that this performed oft becomes so enthralled in his performance, he sometimes neglects to interact with the crowd. Although on this night, Vincent was both zoned-in musically as well as on a personal level with the audience. Making eye contact, smiling, and engaging fans with casual conversation between songs, Vincent was complimented by Danny’s slightly more reserved demeanor this go-round in New York City.  Danny, tucked away in the corner, heavily concentrated on making each composition as perfect as possible, closing his eyes as a heavy sweat of sonic intensity dripped from his brow.

Sticking with newer material, Lee had her chance to shine in the spotlight as her angelic voice rang loudly through the room on such tracks as “Endless Ways,” before dueting more with Vincent on “The Optimist.” Building each song with subtle textures before they grew louder and louder, the energy was palpable. Something Anathema have mastered over the years is the clear translation of music to a moving experience in a live setting, more vivid than one could imagine; prime examples of such sensations were felt on “Thin Air” and later on with “Closer.” A unity of sounds with a human touch, Anathema continued to raise the hairs on the back of the audience’s necks through “Can’t Let Go” and “The Storm Before the Calm,” among others.

Even still, Anathema was not quite done wowing Gramercy Theatre. Often making reference to their first visit to the venue back in 2013 – as well confessing their love for New York but mostly America in general – they kept the songs off The Optimist directly in their line of vision. Naturally a focal point, being their most recent material, they still managed to keep a balanced approach as Lee once again took control on the powerful “A Natural Disaster,” before they wrapped up the main set with “Distant Satellites,” as spiritual a track as one could imagine. Dueling Cardoso and John on drum kits during its climax, the audience cheered for more, hoping an encore was soon to follow.

Thankfully Anathema did return for an encore as they played more select cuts, including new favorite “Springfield,” as well as older-era pieces such as “Lost Control,” “Destiny,” and lastly “Fragile Dreams.” A finale of songs two-plus decades-old, each felt just as potent as the day they were conceived, no doubt bringing listeners back to the time and place they first spun the record. Mirroring that feeling, Anathema relived their musical past while celebrating the present and looking toward to the future in their simply breathtaking performance.

While it may be true that recreating the atmosphere of a first-time experience is merely impossible, Anathema came pretty damn close to doing just that in their second visit to Gramercy Theatre. The novelty has not worn off for the fans or the band, and everyone involved realized how special of a night this was.  While the tour concludes on August 25th down in Philadelphia, PA, hopes are Anathema will be back around sooner rather than later. This in mind, Vincent has stated that it would be a dream to play Radio City Music Hall one day, and judging by the path Anathema has traveled, stranger things have most certainly happened.

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Frank Malerba
frank@crypticrock.com
1Comment
  • Jeannie Blue
    Jeannie Blue
    Posted at 18:20h, 23 August Reply

    A truly passionate review, Frank! I can tell you love this band dearly!

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