September 23, 2013 Anathema & Alcest Sell Out Gramercy Theatre, NYC 9-14-13 w/ Mamiffer
On September 14th, a mild Saturday evening, something rather extraordinary happened in NYC in the world of rock and metal music. At Gramercy Theatre UK band Anathema joined forces with France’s Alcest and US band Mamiffer. What is unique about this tour is the fact that Anathema are now 23 years into their lustrous career building a large international following over time yet never had a proper North American tour. In 2011 the band did an abbreviated acoustic tour with an abbreviated line-up with Blackfield here in the states. Two years later finds the band touring North America with a full line-up and full tour. Being their first official tour of North America the stakes are high. With all that said NYC is always an excellent stop on any tour and 3 dates into this tour, this night would prove to be nothing less than exciting.
To start off the evening Seattle based experimental post-rock band Mamiffer took the stage. Mamiffer performed with key sound designers Faith Coloccia and Aaron Turner (formerly of Isis). The two have been collaborating for some time now and continue to develop a ambient soundscape. With Turner on guitars and keyboards and Coloccia on piano and vocals the songwriting partners filled Gramercy Theatre with a wall of dark dreamlike sounds. Crossing lines between doom metal and a minimalist style sound Mamiffer were a unique beginning for the evening. Their performance set the mood just right and kept the ears and eyes of those in attendance.
Next up was France’s Alcest, formerly of the black metal genre and presently an experimental shoe-gaze influenced band. Made up of Neige on lead vocals and guitar and Winterhalter on drums as primary band members, Alcest took the stage with a full band. With a deep ambient rock sound Alcest shined bright in a sea of darkness. Neige provides a soothing vocal approach over a wall of guitar melodies, drums and bass. For those which are familiar with the shoe-gaze genre you will understand the power and wall of beautiful sound it provides. Clearly focused on the atmosphere with their music Alcest have some of the most stunning guitar melodies in rock music today. As time goes on it will be interesting to see the band progress even further and hopefully tone down the shoe-gaze slightly for listeners to truly appreciate their melodic structures. The audience were completely engaged in Alcest as they elevated the energy of the room.
With an already unique blend of atmosphere and sound a sold out crowd was ready for Anathema. As if this being their first North American tour was not enough a sold out show in NYC merely added to the excitement. Opening their set with “Untouchable, Part 1” the crowd held their breath for a moment yet to release in pure exhilaration. From their Weather Systems (2012) album the track started the journey into emotion. Transitioning us of course into “Untouchable, Part 2”, a piano drenched track highlighted to the vocal duet of Vincent Cavanagh and Lee Douglas. Douglas has been working with the band since the Judgment (1999) album, but it wasn’t until 2010 she became a permanent fixture in the line-up. Continuing with the Weather Systems album the band played the first 4 tracks off the album to the pleasure of all in attendance. Keeping the mood right they went directly into “Thin Air”, a truly majestic track off We’re Here Because We’re Here (2010) that builds intensity as it progresses. A sense of energy filled the room with each note played as they followed with “Dreaming Light”.
With an already enchanting set Anathema treated the audience to a fan favorite track in “Deep” from Judgment (1999). You could feel the warmth in the air as fans sang along to the chorus “All our times will come, searching oblivion, leaving nothing but the memories of all the things you give. They’re all you’ll leave behind within their mind.”. Taking fans for an adrenaline rush Anathema took them down slowly with “Natural Disaster”, a sober beautiful track, again highlighting the vocal talents of Douglas. The band closed out their amazing set with “The Beginning and The End” and “A Simple Mistake”.
Eager to hear more fans cheered, screamed, and chanted with emotional force of those which didn’t want the evening to end. Anathema came back out for an amazing encore of “Internal Landscapes”, “Closer” and Fragile Dreams”. One has to wonder how could an already spectacular performance get any better, well it did. To hear “Internal Landscape” and “Closer” play out in a live performance was as spiritual an experience as listening to the record. Both intense atmosphere building tracks, Anathema performed them perfectly. To end the set with “Fragile Dreams” was what fans were looking for. A track from the Alternative 4 (1998) album many die-hard fans wanted to hear. With only a certain amount of time in a set and 9 albums of material there was only so much ground Anathema could cover and they did a solid job of doing so to fans satisfaction.
The excitement of Vincent and Danny Cavanagh was clearly evident. You could feel the emotion in their performance and as they spoke to the audience. Vincent said during the set “I feel this is only the beginning and the start of something very special”. For a band that has been producing music for over 2 decades that is quite a statement. Lost in the moment of playing a sold out NYC show, an emotional Danny Cavanagh simply said at one point ” I will never forget this”. It’s too often at times we are so concerned with things out of control and simply cannot enjoy the moment. Anathema’s perspective was clear and they were very much enthralled in this special moment in time. A special moment in time not only for themselves as musicians but for dedicated fans which have waited a life-time to see this. With no let downs in their live performance Anathema provided a sheer blissful atmosphere of music and lasting memory for years to come. One can only hope this is only the beginning and North America will see more of Anathema in coming years.