Having attended the Katatonia show in Plovdiv, which saw the band play The Great Cold Distance in full with the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra, one could perhaps say that attending their London show, where the band would be performing the aforementioned album in full without the orchestra, would be a little pointless – but as a massive fan of the band, it only seemed right for me to head to the non-orchestra show too in order to see how it compared, especially considering it was taking place in my home country!
Opening up proceedings was Vola, who got the night off to a decent start. Although I had admittedly felt largely underwhelmed by their album Inmazes, feeling it didn’t do enough to stand out from the crowd, I was hopeful that their music would translate a bit better into a live setting – and it did. There seemed to be a little more momentum behind the delivery and it made the music stand out a bit more and make more of an impact on the listener. It was a good, chilled beginning to the night and set the scene well for what was to come.
Up next was Agent Fresco, who took things up a notch right from the get-go. There was a great deal of movement about the stage and it seemed like it was impossible to tie the members down as they switched between instruments when necessary, and it added a lot to the performance as a result as you never quite knew where each member would be next! Additionally, I was particularly impressed by frontman Arnór’s vocal capabilities as he switched between powerful falsetto-style and a more ‘standard’ approach seamlessly, and it all just worked rather well.
Of course, the night always did belong to Katatonia and cheers filled the room as the band took to the stage to perform their The Great Cold Distance in full as the band marked both 10 years since the album’s release, and 25 years since the band started.
It was interesting to hear the album live without an orchestra, and it seemed to sound heavier and punchier; the orchestra made the music softer and gentler, and this time it was a more in-your-face and harsher rendition. It’s difficult to compare the two side-by-side, as the two performances were quite different, but something that was particularly interesting to note that July, a track that was perhaps the weakest of the ones performed with the orchestra, was one of the highlights of the first set. It was a very passionate and moving performance, enough to send shivers down your spine, and the slight rough-and-ready tone to their sound gave it an extra bite this time round. Additionally, the drum sound was particularly good, giving a powerful performance throughout and a fresh-sounding spin on the songs.
Admittedly I was hoping that Katatonia’s second set would be identical to the one they did in Plovdiv, as it basically featured all of my favourite songs of theirs, and as they started off with Last Song Before The Fade (which featured an amusing technical difficulty that required a laptop reboot before having to restart the song!) it seemed like that the route they were going to take, but immediately afterwards the set diverged, with them performing Teargas a little earlier – and not long after that, threw an almighty curveball in the form of Saw You Drown as frontman Jonas announced they were going to be performing music from all eras of their career. The set as a whole was a perfect mix of old and new, with tracks from their newest release The Fall Of Hearts sitting well alongside songs that were over a decade older!
Indeed, one of the highlights of the set came in the form of very early song Day, from their second full-length album Brave Murder Day. It was a real treat to hear it, especially with a refreshed and updated arrangement, and the performance was spine-tingling to say the least, with Katatonia giving an emotive, colourful and ambient delivery of the song.
The atmosphere in the room was magical from start to finish, with cheers filling the room no matter if the band played old or new songs, and Katatonia wound up their set with Gateways of Bereavement, a song they hadn’t played live for twenty years! It felt a little strange hearing harsh vocals in a Katatonia performance, as the band is now arguably known for its melancholic and sorrowful melodies but nevertheless it was an absolute privilege to be able to see it performed live and it was a great snapshot into the band’s very early days.
Honestly, words cannot do this show justice. It was absolutely magical and a treat to bear witness to. What a night!