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.
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