Dead Can Dance casts spell on audience at the Kimmel

Dead Can Dance - Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry - performed their new CD "Anastasis" in its entirety Sunday, along with music from throughout their career.
Dead Can Dance - Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry - performed their new CD "Anastasis" in its entirety Sunday, along with music from throughout their career.
Posted: August 28, 2012

There's something slightly demystifying about seeing Dead Can Dance in the flesh. Under headphones, the duo of Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry can sound like timeless, ethereal nomads haunting some otherworldly caravanserai. On stage, their arsenal of exotic sounds is realized as a few synths and a handful of percussion instruments, and the passage of time is evident in Perry's graying goatee, if not in his still-rich baritone.

The spell didn't seem to be broken for the audience gathered in Verizon Hall on Sunday night, however. The crowd's ecstatic faces were illuminated by searchlights sweeping the room during "Kiko," from Anastasis, Dead Can Dance's first new album in 16 years, and every soar and swell of Gerrard's flawlessly operatic voice compelled them to leap from their seats in rapturous approval.

Prior to the show, the Kimmel was thronged with fans decked out in goth regalia, baroque black-on-black finery against skin that looked like it hadn't seen the sun since Dead Can Dance's last reunion tour, in 2005. Gerrard and Perry formed the band in Australia in 1981, releasing eight albums of darkly mesmerizing world-fusion goth-folk before disbanding in 1998. Backed by a five-piece band (including percussionist David Kuckhermann, who opened with a short solo set), they performed the entirety of their new CD along with selections from throughout their career.

If the die-hards in the room looked upon the band as royalty, Gerrard played the part to the hilt. Dressed in a regal gown and gazing out imperiously with the bemused half-grin of a malevolent Disney queen, she maintained a statuesque majesty even while hammering melodies on a dulcimer. Her commanding presence lent a hypnotic beauty to the feline Middle Eastern tapestry of "Agape" or the show-stopping drama of her solo showcase, "Sanvean," but over the course of a two-hour set it took on a glacial chill.

Perry at least hinted at a sense of humor, momentarily pinwheeling his arm like a bouzouki-wielding Pete Townshend. But for the most part, the concert played out with a stiflingly morose seriousness.

Dead Can Dance's approach is most effective when spicing their original songs with world-music accents, as on "The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove," which opened the first of three encores. But their renditions of more ancient melodies, like the Arabic lament "Lamma Bada," tended to drain them of their time-tested vitality.

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