Today I the fortune of seeing Dead Can Dance for the second time in my life. Their 2019 Tour is titled ‘A Celebration Life & Works 1980-2019’ and much of the concert harked back to earlier albums with more of a traditional band approach.
The emphasis was really on the history of Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard’s music and many of the tracks from the first half of the concert were tracks they hadn’t performed live for decades. Early highlights were the amazing ‘Labour of Love’, ‘Avatar’ and ‘Bylar’ – the latter of which was an extended version to the one I’d heard before from the boxset. A personal favourite of mine ‘Xavier’ followed which I didn’t think I’d ever hear live so that was fantastic too. Brendan had the lurgy as he called it but you’d barely be able to tell as his voice boomed and still sounded strong and almost drone-like on the lower notes. Lisa hit her stride from ‘Avatar’ onwards and then blasted through fan favourite ‘Sanvean’ and ‘The Wind That Shook The Barley’. Her voice still sounds as unique and spellbinding today as it did 30 years ago.
The second half of the concert moved us through Dead Can Dance’s more tribal and worldly roots. ‘Yulunga (Spirit Dance)’ is always a joy and the percussion throughout the concert was superb. All the noises and effects in the main set closer ‘Dance of the Bacchantes’ worked perfectly too. That track was the sole section of their new album to be played live. All albums except ‘Spiritchaser’ were represented which felt a strange omission considering there were two covers. Brendan’s cover of ‘Song to the Siren’ was superb, but I was less keen on ‘Autumn Sun’ (a song I’m admittedly not aware of from Delayaman). What the track did do was bring Lisa and Brendan together in voice which rarely happens in their music so that was a nice touch. In fact, sharing vocals in each other’s songs was something of running theme during the concert. ‘Host of Seraphim’ really worked wonders with it as the whole band became the lamenting chant. ‘Cantara’ hypnotic banshee power was present for the encore although closer to the original rather than the one of a kind Towards the Within performance, and ‘Severance’ rounded out the gig on a suitably haunting note.
Whilst on stage they may not go for a particular stage present, but Dead Can Dance let their music do the talking. From start to end I was utterly captivated, although I must say the London audience itself was getting quite annoying. I don’t know how many people near me decided to go to the loo or the bar (and it was literally the third song) whilst discussing it loudly. It didn’t pull me out of the experience, which was just as entertaining as when I saw them back in 2013. Highly recommended.
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