ANATHEMA acoustic live at Bulgaria Hall

12 November 2015
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 ANATHEMA acoustic

11 November 2015, Bulgaria Hall, Sofia
words by Nikola Shahpazov, photo: Elena Nenkova


Time is a strange thing indeed. In 2010 we we didn't think an ANATHEMA gig in Sofia possible (still it happened in November of the same year) and in 2015 we almost take their concerts here for granted. Which isn't to say we don't respond to them emotionally. Just ask some of those hundreds of fans that swarmed Bulgaria hall, apllauding loudly every second chorus and guitar strum.

Time teaches us a lot about the band as well – being able to see them live this often gives us an almost intimate look into the development and change happening inside one of the most unique entities of the European rock scene. First time they were here, the Liverpool crew were just entering their Third Era.

They had just released ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’, some seven years after the fabulous ‘A Natural Disaster’, and these days they're probably at the end of this third period that presented us with three stylistically close albums that critics openly refer to as prog rock, being a gust of fresh air into Britain’s overwhelmingly rich rock scene.

And even though ANATHEMA have always presented themselves as stern professionals, their four Bulgarian gigs were always a unique experience that never came as dull or repetitive, each of them being different and reflecting the ongoing development and subtle change inside the band. Same applies to this very special 2015 November concert.

One of the more notable changes from 2010 to 2015 were the concert playlists.  ANATHEMA became more and more confident with the quality of their newer releases and thus their second acoustic show here featured songs almost exclusively off ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’, ‘Weather Systems’ and ‘Distant Satellites’.

And rightly so. Stripped down from their multilayered proggy attires to simple unplugged arrangements, these songs sounded santimental and emotionally rich, Danny and Vincent performing them accordingly with a nearly perfect Lee Douglas handling the female vocals.

The trio went through newfound fan favourites ‘Untouchable’, ‘Dreaming Light’, ‘Ariel’ and ‘Thin Air’, leaving the  audience clapping and asking for more.

This gig marked the end of their acoustic tour that took them through British churches and various European halls, and signs of fatigue were certainly showing.

Given that, Danny's performance might have lacked its characteristic energy but both brothers and Lee stayed stable and emotionally convincing till the end.

We did, of course, get to hear classics like ‘Deep’, ‘Fragile Dreams’ and the Lee dominated ‘A Natural Disaster’ but still there was time and space for more. Thanks to Danny's previous performances here (both solo and alongside Anneke van Giersbergen) we were accustomed to his acoustic renditions of Fleetwood Mac's ‘Big Love’ and Pink Floyd's ‘Wish You Were Here’ but we were served a slab of more (strictly British) cover versions, namely Portishead's ‘Glory Box’ (yet another occasion on which Lee's impressive vocals stunned the audience) and Floyd's ‘Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)’.

But it was on the occasion of ANATHEMA paying tribute to local Liverpool heroes The Beatles that things really clicked. The psychedelic, free and semi-unplugged version of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ was really something and certainly deserves to be recorded in studio..

So, we expected ANATHEMA to be sincere and moving yet different from the way we experienced them in previous times. And of course, they knew that and acted accordingly. That's usually the case with them for they're always moving forward and never frozen in time.


The Lost Song, Part 2
Untouchable, Part 1
Untouchable, Part 2
Thin Air
Dreaming Light
The Beginning and the End
Glory Box (Portishead)
Big Love (Fleetwood Mac)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
Distant Satellites
Tomorrow Never Knows (The Beatles)
A Natural Disaster
Fragile Dreams
Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 (Pink Floyd)