Review: Anathema bring 'The Optimist' tour to New York City

In 2001, British prog rockers Anathema released their sixth studio album A Fine Day To Exit. The album's cover depicts an empty car on the beach belonging to a man bewildered about the ongoings of his life. 16 years later, the band decided to revisit this story with their 11th studio album The Optimist, which was released in June. Unlike their 2001 album, the cover features the same car, but this time, it's taking a ride through the night.

In between the releases of these two albums, the outfit have found themselves increasing their own mileage in North America. Many fans already know the story: after a snafu forced the outfit to embark on an acoustic tour in 2011, they managed to head out on their first proper headlining tour in the area in 2013, which was followed by a tour alongside HIM the following year. During that 2013 tour, the band made their way to Gramercy Theatre for a sold out show. Last night, they managed to do it again at the same venue.

Since their release on the 2012 studio Weather Systems, "Untouchable, Part 1" and "Untouchable, Part 2" have been a staple opener in their live sets. The duel vocals of Vincent Cavanagh, who was powering through the set with the flu, and Lee Douglas have a richer resonance in a live setting. The outfit went through a string of songs from their new album, including the title title track and "Can't Let Go". The track "Endless Ways" nearly went smoothly expect for a slight hiccup in the song's intro. "Sorry, Lee. That would've sounded beautiful," jokingly stated guitarist Daniel Cavanagh before restarting things.

Midway through their set, Anathema decided to unleash the nine and a half minute juggernaut "The Storm Before the Calm", which they never got to play in their last outings in the States. The first half of the track, which is a cosmic whirlwind of electronics, had Vincent in the back utilizing a vocoder while Lee stood on the left side of the stage proclaiming, "Let it get colder until I can't feel anything at all". Halfway through the number, Vincent went back to his trusty guitar to close out the song in massive call and response with Lee. 

Noticing a lack of response from the seated section, Daniel called for everyone to get on their feet towards the end of "Universal". With an entire theatre completely standing, the band went through fan favorite "Closer", which featured Vincent stating, "Your dream world is a very scary place to be trapped inside" through the vocoder. For the next track "A Natural Disaster", the house lights were turned off, and fans were left swaying their phones from side to side while Lee delivered a superlative performance.

"Any requests?," Vincent asked as a sea of fans shouted out a plethora of tunes from their earliest albums. Things quickly changed when he asked if fans wanted to hear anything from their 1998 album Alternative 4. For the rest of their encore, the band dove into that release with "Lost Control", "Destiny", and show closer "Fragile Dreams".

The band's love for the Big Apple was prominent throughout the night. Randomly, Vincent blurted into the mic, "I want to play Radio City Music Hall". It's safe to say that every fan in that building have high hopes for them to headline even bigger venues in the near future.