After a mesmerizing set, Dead Can Dance came back on stage for the first encore of the night to the sounds of an organic-industrial beat, azure backlighting helping frame the onset of intense emotions that Brendan Perry carried throughout the show. There was nothing gimmicky about any aspect of the show. It was like seeing something dignified and respectful without being stuffy, and the audience truly returned the favor. While the music had clearly struck a chord with many people, and the crowd's enthusiasm was palpable, even the more exuberant members of the audience waited for song breaks to shout out things at the stage.
Dead Can Dance began its set with "Children of the Sun," one of the many excellent songs from Anastasis, the group's new album, and the rest of the set offered a tasteful balance of older material with roughly half of the new album. From the beginning, the gracefulness and soulfulness of the music was unmistakable and the sonic detail executed by the six members of the band was lush and evocative. With Lisa Gerrard playing the yangqin for parts of the show and Perry favoring a beautifully lacquered bouzouki, alongside synths and acoustic and electronic percussion, the act never seemed like it was trying hard to evoke another era or bringing in as many elements as possible like dilettantes.
Gerrard often smiled during the show, defying any preconceived image of her being a solemn artist, while, true to form, Perry joked gently with his dry wit. Together, the pair created a heavy, soul-stirring emotional atmosphere, which serves as the core of the band. On an especially moving rendition of "Amnesia" from Anastais, Perry and Gerrard were like two sides of the same vibrant voice: Perry's like a soulful crooner with tones that resonate with a gentle touch, even when he sings in languages you may not know like on "Rakim," and Gerrard's almost wordless vocalizations get under your skin in a way few singers' can, especially on songs like "Yulunga" and the more sunny "Ariadne."
The main set ended with "All In Good Time," with Perry gesturing dramatically at each line. The crowd gave a standing ovation and Dead Can Dance didn't keep us waiting long before coming out to perform a two-song encore. The first encore featured "The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove," one of the band's genuine hits, and the Tim Buckley classic, "Song to the Siren." The band's energy level at this point, particularly on the former, was far greater than we'd heard previously on Into the Labyrinth -- this performance was visceral. When the outfit left stage again, it was quickly beckoned back by another standing ovation. This brought out Gerrard and one of the keyboard players for a final song, after which Gerrard complimented the audience on making this show special for the band.
Earlier in the evening, hang master David Kuckhermann opened the show by himself, with a brace of instruments around him. He remarked on this at one point and thanked the audience for being quiet and respectful. Apparently he doesn't always get this with a large crowd. Kuckhermann is known for being quite a tambourine player. He proceeded to show us how you can play one much more creatively than just hitting one against your backside or casually with your other hand. When he got around to playing the two hangs, though, he truly shined in creating resonant melodies. It takes a lot of guts to be a percussionist, more or less, and open for an act like Dead Can Dance, but Kuckhermann did so with grace, humility and humor.
Personal Bias: Getting to see Dead Can Dance live is kind of a dream come true for me, as I've been more than a casual fan for twenty years or so.
Random Detail: Eighteen songs was more than generous enough and never once was this band less than fantastic in its ability to make you forget the mundane long after the show had ended.
By the Way: This crowd was uncommonly respectful.
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