Köln – Anathema plus Alcest – Live Music Hall, Ehrenfeld

Hector, Marg and Howard saw Anathema perform in Glasgow on what was the second night of The Optimist Tour in September this year. With everything ready The Roadie appeared to fuck up big style and – Suddenly –  Vincent Cavanagh’s pedal set-up had to be re-wired. The result was a lost half hour of music given the curfew at The Garage. Still, they played an excellent set with coverage of the best of recent albums.


Prior to the announcement of the UK Tour, Hector had purchased a ticket for this evening’s concert at the Live Music Hall (Köln-Ehrenfeld) with Alcest in support. Having purchased the current Alcest album – Kodama – days before the Glasgow gig there was enough familiarity to confirm an interest in their brand of Heavy Rock. Unfortunately we only caught the last ten minutes of their set.

Tonight Hector was in situ early and caught the full fifty five minutes of Alcest starting at exactly 19.30. Heavy, yes, however, there is always a melody at the root of their compositions. With lyrics in their native French, who cares? The grunting sequences do make me wonder. It was amusing to hear a French Band greet a German Crowd in English.


Anathema’s taped intro began at 21.00, as each member took their spot, so the Electronica increased the suspense. Danny Cavanagh was last on stage, sporting the now familiar headphones, it was straight into four songs from 2017’s – The Optimist: San Francisco, Can’t let go, Endless Ways, The Optimist. Having made the effort to find a Media Player which plays the album tracks in the proper order and not alphabetically which too many fall back to, to hear these songs out of order once again tonight was not the surprise it was in Glasgow. I conclude that the Electronic Doodling mid album makes a natural (taped) starting point.

Anathema albums are highly thematic with recurring motifs. The Lost Song, Part 3 (Distant Satellites, 2014) does stand alone, but the first two parts have now been dropped. Lee Douglas on backing vocals came into her own at this point in the set. There would be more from Distant Satellites later.

Twenty minutes or so into the set it became apparent that the Cavanagh brothers, all three of them, would not be stepping into the limelight. Purple, Red and Green lighting continuously flooded the front of the stage, any white light was from the rear. The was a reluctance to address the audience, nay banter.

The Drummer was the band member who we could see most clearly, anyone could have been on Bass. Yes, the photos are crap.

A Fine Day to Exit (2001) was the next album to be featured: Barrier, Pressure, Panic and Looking Outside Inside. This is an album I possess but have not played anything like the material of the last decade.

You never thought you would hear that – said Danny Cavanagh who was finally starting to loosen up and talk to the audience. Why be reticent, most young Germans understand English, there was also the hard core of Fellow Travellers down the front from the UK also.

Only two songs from 2010’s – We’re Here Because We’re Here: Thin Air, and A Simple Mistake. A Chap in the audience had a banner requesting the latter song:

It changed my life – cried the young German fan. Dreaming Light from the same album is perhaps (IMHO) Anathema’s most striking song and was played in Glasgow, not tonight.

Vincent announced that they have been trying to play – everything – resulting in gigs lasting two and a half hours. This gave hope. Danny consulted the others, two songs from Weather Systems (2012) were then declared, official set-lists have yet to name these.

Vincent was doubling up on Rhythm Guitar and Keyboards, why have so much Taped/Midi Keyboards? There used to be a Touring Keyboard player, not on this tour.

Closer (A Natural Disaster, 2004) was played in Glasgow and again tonight, why? The intro began before Vincent touched any keyboard, the Electronic Vocals destroy this song. There were two more songs before the break: Big Love, a Fleetwood Mac cover, and The Exorcist, a Cavnanagh composition but apparently not credited to Anathema.  Both were unknown to Hector.

There was an interval. The second set began with more taped Electronica, however, I regard Firelight (Distant Satellites) as one of their standout compositions, but with no Keyboard Player they were correct not to mime it.

The title track from Distant Satellites kicked off the second half(?) with possibly the standout song from The Optimist – Springfield – following on.

I estimated more than a thousand people were present, as ever at Prog Rock concerts, the ages ranged from teenagers to … pensioners. Two songs from Alternative 4 (1998) may have been known by true Anathema Aficionados. Lost Control and Destiny were also unknown to Hector.

Weather Systems was purchased by Hector possibly in 2012, the year it was released. It sat unplayed in my collection after the first spin until the start of last year. The rest is… I wondered how I had missed its brilliance. Untouchable Part 1 naturally led into Untouchable Part 2, the tracks which started their concerts until this tour…

Suddenly… the gig was over, in just under two hours. Was Part 2 the Encore? Do bands really only perform extra songs in Glasgow?

At 23.00 there the possibility that the nearby Empire Masala (Neptunplatz. 6A, 50823 Köln-Ehrenfeld, Köln) was still open (Source – Google Maps). Leider, Kebap-Zeit.

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