THE attraction of Anathema's progressive music has always been something of a mystery to those not to have indulged in them previously. However, the award-winning album 'The Optimist' has seen them reach out further than previously.
The healthy crowd at Limelight2 on a Saturday evening is testament to that - and being paired with previous tour partners Alcest added to the attraction.
For many Alcest are tough viewing. Neige's project veers from full-on black metal, through introspection to aural widdling. And at times that introspection seems as if Neige and co are almost withdrawn into themselves as they take on a series of songs that are densely populated with textures.
Each track is allowed breath in its extended playing and of the many lengthy tunes 'Percées du Lumiere' and 'Kodama' showcase a band that commands attention.
With The Optimist riding high in everyone's consciousness Anathema chose to keep the focus tightly on more recent material. With almost Soviet-like determination a lot from the Liverpudlians has been expunged from the set.
However, for a band that has evolved so far in their sound and textures it may be understandable from a band point of view, but die-hard fans may question whether even one or two older tracks could context their changing sounds.
That being said it is a set that is lush and uses every aspect of the sounds they are currently harnessing, Opening with the instrumental 'San Francisco' Anathema segue into beautiful live versions of 'Untouchable Part 1' and 'Untouchable Part 2'.
Lee Douglas', at times unearthly singing is matched and complimented by the Cavanagh brothers as they dual and weave together.
'Thin Air' and 'Dreaming Light' were entrancing in the Limelight and overall the set goes down well, despite some of the more intricate passages and at times overwhelming keyboards.
But that is where Anathema are in 2017. It is hard to see how some of the early songs could have been included, other than to contrast what they do now and change the dynamics.
But for those who turned out for Anathema can attest that they are a well-oiled live act, with, one suspects much more up their collective sleeves when they complete this tour cycle.
Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh