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Concert Review: Dead Can Dance at the Orpheum Annex Theatre, Vancouver, B.C., August 9, 2012

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This latest incarnation of Dead Can Dance finds the bloom peeling off of the rose. It is the band’s first tour since 2005 in honor of their first new music in 16 years, Anastasis, but something was awry this time around.

And it wasn’t because this was their first show of a seven month tour, evidenced by a number of briefly humanizing glitches. It was more that the shtick seems tired and postured. Together, Lisa Gerrard’s Miss Havisham/exquisite corpse persona and Brendan Perry’s obnoxiously artful (or artificial) introspection lack the legitimacy and enchantment they once held in the 1980s and ’90s. The aura seemed to require effort this go-around, where previously it organically emanated from the stage.

Much like Breaking Bad’s protagonist Walter White, whom he partially resembles, Perry is driven to pack as many words as possible in a sentence/lyric, especially on the new songs. The result is tight and constricting, verging on desperate.

Also like White, the songwriter seems to need to be the smartest person in the room, from demonstrating his prowess with every instrument, to pointing out his obscure cover choices and his ability to sing in dead languages.

When he toured as a solo act last year, Perry was less needy, perhaps due to the lack of competition which Gerrard poses against. I liked him better then. His version of “Song to the Siren” was more of an homage to Tim Buckley and This Mortal Coil last year, where tonight it was an encore piece all about him.

This element overshadowed the setlist as well. It was either arrogance or product placement that six of the first seven songs were from Anastasis, which was released yesterday, August 14, but which was already available at the merch table in various formats. The entire album was performed over the night, a monopolizing eight of the 19 or so songs played.

Thankfully, the intoxicating “Rakim” was the third song, but after such a profound live hiatus, there should have been a couple of orchestral bones thrown before the next familar reprieve, “Sanvean” ironically another gem from their only live album, Toward the Within.

Other highlights included Gerrard’s “Now We Are Free” from The Gladiator soundtrack and her “Dreams Made Flesh,” released as This Mortal Coil.

However, to say the night was hers would only be partially true. Granted, she was more at peace in her skin and certainly wasn’t trying to impress, per se, but where previously her every syllable captivated and transfixed, this time I found myself bored with some of her warbling. I even caught myself wondering what happened to Enya and compiling my grocery list.

Breaking through, “The Host of Seraphim” commanded rapt attention, and it was visually matched with some outstanding shadow and light work. While the DCD duo’s grip on the audience has loosened, the real star of show hands down was the lighting designer, who effortlessly created a substantial mood with seemingly very little. Minimal and lush, the lighting effects all night were spellbinding.

Sadly, the other elements of the performance complemented these effects only sporadically.


    –Chris “Gutter” Rose
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  • Dawn Pittman

    Thanks for this review. I saw the show in London and left disappointed.

    Everything I read in advance of the concert had raved about this tour, so it was a relief to see that someone was as let down as I was. I wanted to be moved to tears as I had been at previous DCD shows.

    Lisa was better than Brendan, but she was not as good as she has been in the past, especially when I saw her with Klaus Schultz.

    I too feel that Brendan as a solo act is less precious and vastly more entertaining.

    I realize they are promoting the new album, but it didn’t need to monopolize the setlist as it did.

    Playing fewer tracks from it to make room for a couple of better known ones (instead of the playing the whole thing) would not have pandered nostalgia ala the Rolling Stones, but rather showcased a uniquely rich and diverse discography.

  • joanne lawrence

    Was this reviewer even at a performance?? I couldn’t disagree anymore strongly!!! I travelled from England to Dublin in order to be privileged in hearing one of my all time favourite bands live. I wasn’t disappointed, I was awestruck, rendered speechless and frequently moved to tears by the sheer passion and ability of the musicians on stage. Lisa Gerard and Brendan Perry are both mesmerising, talented and deeply focussed on their music. I would happily travel half way across the world to relive the experience.

  • Ian Lafferty

    The point of the tour was to promote a new recording. The new songs melded perfectly with the old stuff. If you want a trip down “Memory Lane” go see The Rolling Stones.

  • Seamus

    Just saw the Dublin gig, and compared with so much crap live bands out there DCD were amazing. I saw none of the cracks, or the pretension referenced above (although Now we are Free started a bit flat, but ended strongly). What I saw was a performance with not one but two vocalists on top of their game. I can’t easily remember too many live performances I’ve ever seen with such vocal talent. Host of the Seraphim was a standout, as was Song to the Siren. I am also surprised that there are complaints that they played the entire new album. They are touring with a new album …. I think playing new songs is a standard for a band touring after a new release. And yet the new songs fared well alongside old classics. How many bands can say that after such a hiatus? For me, the gig was a musical highlight..but I can imagine that not every gig will be equally good…

  • Graham C

    Actually, the Hamburg performance was completely amazing.

  • Graham C

    (whispers) I have to say that last night’s show in London was a little bit rubbish. Cracks galore and a performance of ‘The Host Of Seraphim’ which was simply not very good. Mercifully I also saw them in Hamburg; a far better show all round.

  • Martin G

    Saw them in Royal Albert Hall in London yesterday, and in Moscow a few weekends before that, both performances blew my mind and I could not disagree more with this review. Anastasis is a fantastic album, and both Brendan’s and Lisa’s voices are exactly like on the albums.

  • Currykev

    Having seen DCD and Lisa over the last few years, and in Barcelona just 2 days ago, I am in agreement with the reviewer. Lisa has become the star that shines, while Brendan seemed to be the kid that wants. I found myslef wishing I was at a Ms Gerrard gig not a DCD one.

  • anthony b

    anabasis, savean, miss havisham, fait divers, interior world, orthography???

    everyone associated with this review – band, reviewer, and commentator – lives up their ass and huffs their own farts.

  • Zingzing

    Dead can dance do walk a fine line between pretentiousness and art. If they’ve got you, it doesn’t matter how pretentious they are, but if they lose you, it just becomes unbearable.

    Andrew, you make a good point, but you wrap it up in a turd.

  • Andrew

    We read in the hope of finding something interesting and learning some of the fait divers of the event, not to learn of the reviewers lack of attention span, their shallow interior world, and their defensive superiority which manifests in pedantic critique of other people’s orthography.

  • Jimmy

    Funny comment! Are you jealous because most music reviewers can spell “douchebag”? If you feel that way, why are you reading music reviews?

  • mostmusicreviewers are duchbags

    Lame review. They were amazing.