I was expecting a lot from this concert which many times can lead to disappointment. Dead Can Dance has been one of my favorite bands since I first heard them on a mix tape made for me back in 1987. The song that inspired me to buy one of their albums was “Cantara”, a mesmerizing track featuring a subdued instrumental at the beginning that gives no indication at all to the powerful and gorgeous vocal delivery that is about to come from Lisa Gerrard. The album that song comes from is the band’s 1987 release of Within the Realm of a Dying Sun, STILL one of my all-time favorite albums.
I have liked the band for over two decades but when the duo disbanded in 1998 without ever having played a show in Arizona (that I know of at least) I put them on that list of bands I never had a chance to see and never would. Therefore, when rumors began to surface last year that Brendan Perry and Gerrard were not only going to reunite for a 2012 world tour but actually release new material I was way beyond excited. The anticipation for this concert was pretty intense and needless to say the band did not disappoint at all!
Leading off with my favorite song from the band’s eighth and latest album Anastasis, “Children of the Sun”, Dead Can Dance wasted no time setting the tone for an incredible evening. The song recalls epic moments from the past for DCD and Brendan Perry’s vocals were typically stunning. That deep baritone voice of his still resonates in a crystal clear manner, fully allowing you to digest every word he sings. The percussion boomed throughout the venue and the work on the keyboards from two of the accompanying band mates was hypnotic. This was a great way to begin the show.
All eight songs from Anastasis were played, giving the crowd that had not bought the new album yet a chance to hear the entire disc and experience the new material created by Dead Can Dance. The crowd responded well to the new tracks, particularly Brendan Perry’s deliveries of “Children of the Sun” and “Opium”, and Lisa Gerrard’s stunning live rendition of “Agape”.
A few of the songs played by DCD are not on the band’s albums, including “Lamma Bada”, “”Ime Prezakias”, “Now We Are Free” and “Rising of the Moon”. I was particularly intrigued by one of the piece’s Perry sang, one of the few times during the show he introduced a song before the band started to play. The song was described as a “lament”. I wish I could remember the name because it was a beautiful piece.
Lisa Gerrard frequently left the stage when she was not singing or playing the yangqin. Some reviews I have read from this tour criticize the practice for breaking up the continuity of the proceedings. I wholeheartedly disagree, I never felt a disruption in the flow of the concert. There are several songs when the duo sings together, but I like the idea of a singular focus when just one of the two artists were singing.
The third song of the set was “Rakim”, the lead track from the band’s only official live document Toward the Within. The crowd went nuts when the song commenced, rightfully so because this is one of the band’s signature tunes. Gerrard’s yangqin delivery at the beginning of the song leads right into a gentle barrage of multiple work on the percussion and Perry’s exquisite vocals. Definitely one of the highlights of the set.
“The Host of Seraphim”, the lead track from The Serpent’s Egg and “Nierika”, the lead track from Spiritchaser were nice and for me surprising additions to the set. Both tracks gave the audience a chance to witness just how good the backing band for Gerrard and Perry are. A Dead Can Dance concert has to be delivered with near perfection to truly work because the music is so precise, so intense, so beautiful and so stunning. That was clearly the case on this evening in large part due to the stellar work done by the five other musicians on stage.
Fans of the U.K. label 4AD Records were sure to recognize two This Mortal Coil tracks performed, one to end the first encore and one to lead off the second encore. This Mortal Coil was somewhat of a 4AD “supergroup” created by Ivo Watts-Russell, founder of the label. Bands that were on the label contributed songs under the This Mortal Coil moniker over a span of three albums from the project. Dead Can Dance contributed “Dreams Made Flesh” to the first TMC album It’ll End in Tears with Perry playing the yangqin and Gerrard stunning on the vocals. Live this was awesome and that song ended encore #1. When Brendan Perry came out to start encore #2 he sang a song that I immediately recognized as another TMC song but could not immediately recall the title. More important, I knew the original TMC track was sung by a woman. That song was a Tim Buckley cover by the name of “Song to the Siren”, sang by Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins. Perry was able to give this track a completely different feel, transforming the song into something all his own.
For this writer the two most memorable moments of the show came during the eighth song of the set and the first song of the first encore. “Sanvean” is a song written by Lisa Gerrard back in 1993 and was included on Toward the Within. The incredible voice this woman possesses travels to a new level on this song that features just her and the two keyboardists. You could have heard a pin drop during her performance, her voice is that mesmerizing while singing this song. It is powerful enough to move you to tears. I was hoping she would sing this and ecstatic when she did. It was one of those concert moments I will remember forever.
“The Ubiquitious Mr. Lovegrove” is one of only two DCD songs I can recall hearing on the radio and has to be Brendan Perry’s signature Dead Can Dance song. When the eerie beginning to this track commenced the crowd went wild, an appropriate response for this amazing tune. Perry was in prime form during this point of the concert, his voice hypnotizing the crowd as he started off the first of three encores the band received. Stupendous is one of many adjectives I can use to describe that point of the concert.
Folks, I have seen many, many concerts over the years and after a few days to take everything in I can honestly rank this as the second best concert I have ever attended, just behind Elbow’s incredible performance at the Bluebird Theatre back in 2008. Another item to scratch off the bucket list! Thank you DCD for an incredible evening!