The Renaissance of Dead Can Dance - Review of the concert at Cirque Royal on 29 SeptemberConcert
Darkwave • Ethereal / Heavenly Voices • Folk / Ethnic / Tribal
19/10/2012, Philippe BLACKMARQUIS
The title of their brand new album, "Anastasis" ("Renaissance" in Greek) had announced it clearly. And it was indeed a renaissance that we witnessed on September 29 at the soldout concert given by Dead Can Dance at the Cirque Royal (Brussels). Their last visit dated from 2005 (at Bozar) and their last original production, from 1996 ("Spiritchaser"). It was therefore high time to pull the dead out of his deep sleep and to make it dance again...
"Dead Can Dance" is a beautiful oxymoron that is explained on the cover of the first album of the combo, which dates from 1984. It shows a Guinean wooden mask. Through this mask, the dead wood can dance again... Led by the Anglo-Irish Brendan Perry and the Australian Lisa Gerrard, Dead Can Dance was one of the spearheads of the 4AD label with Bauhaus and Cocteau Twins in the early 80s. Throughout their long career they have evolved with a growing success from cold-wave to classically inspired, gothic and medieval music, culminating finally in a "world music fusion" sound that borrows elements from traditional North African and Asian music.
To open the show, precisely another duo specializing in "world music": Vladiswar Nadishana, a Siberian multi-instrumentalist, and David Kuckhermann, a percussionist from Berlin. The central instrument of the duo is the "hang" or "hangdrum", a kind of oval steel drum, evoking the shape of a flying saucer (picture). This supporting act was full of finesse and sensitivity and prepared us ideally for the journey to come...
When Dead Can Dance took possession of the stage, a thunderous applause filled the hall. Before having played a single note, the band received a standing ovation. Then we heard the first synth chords of "Children Of The Sun", the first track from Anastasis, a composition that evokes the 'flower power ' philosophy. Perry's deep baritone voice filled the room, majestic and commanding. With his weathered face and graying beard, he looks like a wise man, inhabited by his music. Lisa Gerrard is beautiful, draped in a brown velvet dress. A brocade embroidered with gold and silver floats on her shoulders...
In the second song, "Anabasis", we discover her sublime voice, probably the most beautiful female voice in the world. A low voice, vibrant, full and dark, with a warm tone. As in most of her compositions, Gerrard sings in a language of her own which she has developed since the age of 12 years, a strange "idioglossy", hermetic and with arabic references. A magical atmosphere pervades the room and the public is shuddering with happiness.
Overall, the setlist consisted mainly of tracks from Anastasis but the band also revisited its vast discography. The sound of a triangle and some notes on the yangqin, a Chinese dulcimer, and it's "Rakim", from "Toward The Within", the live album from 1994. The song has African accents and is sung by Perry. On "Kiko", perhaps the most beautiful track from Anastasis, Gerrard's hypnotic voice responds beautifully to repetitive bouzouki notes from Perry. In the middle of the song, the very special rhythm (a 4/4-5/4 time signature) associated with beautiful harmonies and the bouzouki created a deep and dark intensity. A poignant beauty...
Brendan Perry then presented "Lamma Bada", a traditional song from the old Moorish Andalusia. Written in old Arabic, the song describes the pain of a person who suffers from the love for the image of another person who is on the other side of a room.
After "Agape" and "Amnesia", two other new songs, comes another key moment of the concert, the sublime "Sanvean", interpreted in a masterly fashion by Gerrard. She wrote this song in 1993 with Andrew Claxton thinking about her family in Australia, from which she was separated at the time. On a soft carpet of violins, designed by Jules Maxwell on keyboards, she began to sing this beautiful melody. You could not hear a pin drop and the moment was magical. The public was crucified by the perfect melancholy that emerged from this music, which seemed to hold all the love in the world. Watch the video below:
Back to Africa with "Nierika", from "Spiritchaser", one of the few songs on which the two singers share the lead vocals. Perry also showed his talents as a percussionist, a drum held tight between his legs. Then it was "Opium", with its Asian accents, adorned with gentle hangdrum notes.
Then, a timpani tore the veil of a solemn organ sound, and it was "Host Of Seraphim", from "Serpent's Egg". Here again, we are plunged into the Gothic period the group, which will remain the most prominent for many fans. Particularly because the two artists were then a couple and their compositions were marked with the seal of passion. Watch the video below. Note also that "Host Of Seraphim" is one of the most famous songs of the band, because it was included in many film soundtracks.
We left this somewhat serious atmosphere for the lighter "Ime Prezakias" a Rembetika, a musical genre from Greece in the '30s. The title means "I'm an addict" and under the Persian and swaying rhythm of the song, the yellow lights are dancing on the black veil that drapes the podium background.
Lisa Gerrard takes over with her most successful solo song, "Now We Are Free", composed with Hans Zimmer for the soundtrack of Gladiators (2000), a music that earned the duo a Golden Globe Award. With her hands on her desk, she closes her eyes to control every breath of her voice. After a break with African accents, comes the final lament, sublime.
The show then ends softly with "All In Good Time", a slow song from Perry, which may not be the ideal piece to close a set, but when the musicians left the stage, a thunderous noise came from the audience to ask for an encore.
They came back and played the very Indian "The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove", from Into The Labyrinth ('93), followed by a very touching "Dreams Made Flesh", a song created by Perry and Gerrard for the album "I'll End In Tears" of the collective 4AD This Mortal Coil. Perry now joins Lisa Gerrard to play yangqin and we are touched to see the former couple side by side (see video).
For the second encore, we stay on the same album from 1984 with "Song To The Siren", which Perry usually sings during his solo concerts. His version is closer to the original version of Tim Buckley (1970) than the one from This Mortal Coil... Superb. Finally, "The Return Of The She-King", with its Celtic tone, allows Astrid Williamson, on keyboards and backing vocals, to show the beauty of her voice as she echoes Gerrard. Spotlights draw arabesques on the stage and we are in a medieval dream. Perry then joins the two singers to form a choir that ends the song in a beautiful a capella. Watch the video below:
To end this unforgettable concert, Lisa Gerrard returned to sing "Wandering Star," a song from her latest album, "The Silver Tree" (2006).
As we are leaving the Cirque Royal, our emotion is strong. Of course, we would have preferred to hear more old songs, of course the setlist could have included more "rhythmic" tracks, especially at the end, but it is clear that this concert marked a very successful return for Dead Can Dance. In comparison with their 1993 show, I can say that they have lost none of their musical quality. The magical duo is back, and you know what, it's like they were never gone...
Children of the Sun
The Host of Seraphim
Now We Are Free
All in Good Time
The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove
Dreams Made Flesh (cover of This Mortal Coil)
Song to the Siren (cover of Tim Buckley)
Return of the She-King
ULTRAVOX • Review of the concert at TRIX in Antwerp on 11th October 2012
MORLOCKS • The Outlaw Of Fives
A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS • Review of the concert at Botanique in Brussels on 8th October 2012
CABARET GREY • Stirring
ORCUS NULLIFY • EP
STRANGE2 & NEV.ERA • Diario Sonoro
BEN LUKAS BOYSEN • Restive
OBVERSE REALITY • The Future Ended... Today
HERZPARASIT • Fromme Lämmer
THE PAIN MACHINERY • Restart
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