Dead Can Dance at The Royal Albert Hall, London

18th September 2012
Review by Victoria Fenbane

7 years ago Dead Can Dance mesmerised Londoners on two consecutive sold out dates as part of their ‘Reunion’ tour. In October 2012 they return to their former home city, to perform in the more grandiose surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall. They have stopped off in London on their world tour promoting new studio album ‘Anastasis’, the first since ‘Spirtchaser’ in 1996. Tonight’s concert sold out within 48 hours, and in the preceding weeks tickets were changing hands at over double their face value, meaning there are high expectations about tonight’s performance.

Dead Can Dance essentially consist of duo Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, and it is on these two that all attention is focused tonight, despite being accompanied by incredibly talented musicians. DCD have been bringing us haunting melodies since the early 80’s, where from the outset, they have been popular amongst those of a gothic persuasion, due to an eponymous debut album featuring a much more post-punk 4AD sound than later material. However their ever deepening shift into increasingly experimental neoclassical ethereal sounds also attracted gothic fans, by retaining these early atmospherics. There are a fair few of those distinctive looking fans in diverse the crowd tonight, interspersed with those who look to be fans of more contemporary music.

As soon as the performers take the stage they launch into material from new album ‘Anastasis’. The audience takes to these songs as if they are the better known classics; however the greater cheer which greets the opening bars of ‘Rakim’ (from 1994’s ‘Toward the Within’) reveals all present are in fact long term fans. Out of the 19 songs played tonight (and on every other date of this tour) 8 make up the entirety of ‘Anastasis’. Not all of the remainder is original DCD material either – cover versions and some of Perry and Gerrard’s solo creations make up the set list; including Gerrard’s ‘Now We Are Free’ from the film ‘Gladiator.

Cover versions performed include ‘Ime Prezakias’ a 1930’s Greek folk song by Roza Eskenazi, which according to Perry contains a political statement relevant to the modern day situation in Greece. They play two hits by This Mortal Coil – ‘Dreams Made Flesh’ which was originally one of Gerrard’s contributions to the 80’s supergroup and ‘Song to the Siren’ which is actually a Tim Buckley cover, recorded by This Mortal Coil (essentially a cover of a cover).

Perry interacted with the audience throughout; introducing songs, explaining their origin and the like. Meanwhile Gerrard remained silent except for her unique vocal contributions and flitted off the stage when she wasn’t required to perform. Due to this behaviour she came across as either an impatient diva or a shy genius. Either way it hinted at tensions between herself and Perry and gave her performance a cold atmosphere, while she may have been aiming to be enigmatic. Personally I found myself warming to Perry and distancing myself from Gerrard, despite her considerable talent and enjoyed songs lead by the Irishman more.

Despite this the whole performance was note perfect, with all on stage using a range of instruments to create beautiful soundscapes. I was surprised by how many of the sounds were electronically pre-recorded and felt a little cheated. A totally live performance would have added to the experience; however this would also have pushed up the ticket price – which was incredibly good value.

The triple (and scripted encore), which felt like enforced worship, caused a number of people to leave before the show was over; or it was possible they were bored from self-indulgent set lacking in old favourites – as some were. By the third encore, which consisted of ‘Rising of the Moon’, there were a number of empty seats in the stalls. Gerrard finally spoke the very end of the night to tell us what she has told every other crowd on this tour – that we are fabulous…

In all it was an experience to see Dead Can Dance but not the transcendental experience I was expecting and hoping for. Maybe comfier seats in RAH would have helped!

Setlist:
Children of the Sun
Anabasis
Rakim
Kiko
Lamma Bada
Agape
Amnesia
Sanvean
Nierika
Opium
The Host of Seraphim
Ime Prezakias
Now We Are Free
All in Good Time

Encore:
The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove
Dreams Made Flesh

Encore 2:
Song to the Siren
Return of the She-King

Encore 3:
Rising of the Moon

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