It’s been sad to witness the public decline of this once-magnificent ensemble. There’s no way to overlook the fact that they’ve not just reached but surpassed the point where they should not tour, or compose, anymore.
“Anastasis” was ironically named – the name translates as “resurrection”, but it spells “stasis”, and the experience of listening to the album highlighted the creative “stasis” that we’ve already felt in the solo work of Brendan and especially Lisa. It’s not just that the album is so one-paced – it’s that so many of the interesting details which made their 1989-93 work so marvellous have disappeared. The medievalism and the Celtic-ness have gone (but plenty of people are filling that gap in the market), more worryingly there are no more identifiable Greek, Turkish or even South American influences. Just generic ambient-pop. Which is often self-derivative: one of Lisa’s songs is really “The Lotus Eaters” with the notes not necessarily in the right order.
And that’s not all. Someone should have told Brendan before he wrote “Amnesia” – the Muslims who demonstrated against Remembrance Day were making a valid point, even with the wrong ideological perspective. When you buy your November poppy, when you adhere to the minutes’ silence instead of noisily disturbing, you are voting for war, voting for imperialism, voting for cultural cleansing, voting for the kind of racist violence committed by the Allied troops during the Iraq and Afghan wars. And that’s why that song makes you look like a dimwitted right-wing moron, Brendan.
I wasn’t at the Royal Albert Hall, I’ve only seen the YouTube footage. But that was enough to compound the disappointment of the “Anastasis” album, which dominates the set-list apparently because they simply can’t perform the back catalogue anymore.
What wasn’t so apparent on the album, but ruins the show, is Lisa’s declining vocal strength. Her range has narrowed, but we knew that – what wounds the concert (or rather wounds this listener!) is her increasing difficulty in controlling her voice.
Sure, we’ve all heard those old live recordings, when she had trouble staying in tune with the rest of the band – but then it was merely a matter of faulty monitor systems and other impediments to her hearing. Now that once devastatingly beautiful voice is proving difficult to pitch correctly – the Albert Hall versions of “Sanvaen” (played too slowly, as usual since 1993), of “Dreams Made Flesh” and especially of “The Host Of Seraphim” are painful to hear.