It has been a while since I have seen Katatonia in concert and it has also been a while since I have gone to Shepherd’s Bush Empire because it was in renovation for the past year or so. There was no better way to celebrate the return of this fantastic venue than with a special 25th anniversary Katatonia concert. This Swedish band is important in the metal and rock world because of their unquestionable influence on countless bands and fans. Starting as a death/doom act and progressing into a “dark rock” act with clean vocals, every album of theirs is exceptional.
Supporting the band were Vola from Denmark and Agent Fresco from Iceland. Both acts put on mesmerising and dream-like progressive shows. Although they were different, they went together so well and warmed up the audience for the main show of the night. You could also tell that both bands were super happy to be on tour with Katatonia as both frontmen kept praising and thanking the band for letting them join.
By the time Agent Fresco finished, the venue filled up with Katatonia fans. This was the band’s only UK stop on this tour and it was a special one – it was not only a 25th anniversary show but it also celebrated the 10th anniversary of their iconic album The Great Cold Distance. To properly celebrate both occasions, the show consisted of two sets: 1. The Great Cold Distance in full; and 2. A “best of” Katatonia set with one track from every album. It was a long show with an hour for each set and a 20 minute break in between. It was an early Christmas treat for every dedicated Katatonia fan.
Although technical issues were experienced during the first tracks, Katatonia overcame the difficulties and by the time “My Twin” kicked in, everyone was singing along. It really did feel like a special show, not because of the special set but also because of how the band interacted with the audience. Jonas Renkse (vocals) usually tends to be a shy frontman, headbanging and tapping his hand on his leg in-between his singing. This time, however, Jonas talked to the audience a bit more than usual, thanked (along with guitarist Anders Nyström) everyone for their outstanding support all these years and said that they are just “four guys from Sweden” who never imagined that they would reach such status with their music career.
Indeed, these four guys from Sweden are already living legends in heavy metal and rock and their second set demonstrated it. Hit after hit, there was no bad track: “Teargas”, “Saw You Down”, “Day”, “For My Demons”, “Forsaker” or “Evidence”. The band finished off (before the encore) with a track which they haven’t performed since 1996, “Gateways of Bereavement” from the Dance of December Souls album. Having grown up with their old-school death-doom albums, I was pleasantly surprised to hear it, and it was amazing to relive the early days of the band but also my own metal upbringing. Even if Jonas’ death growls are not the same anymore as they were in the 90s, it was still an amazing tribute (and experience for me) to their early days.
Well done Katatonia and here’s to the next 25 years of amazing music!