The night was filled with magic, muses and incredible music which filled the majestic halls of the Auditorium Theatre here in Chicago, IL. On the final show of their world tour, the Dead Can Dance had this 4,000 seat theatre filled to capacity with a more than eager audience.
As everyone was still taking their seats, I could not help but notice the beauty inside this theatre; full of rich, ornate designs and paintings, the setting was perfect. The names, Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, Rossini and a few others were inscribed on the walls, and Gerrard and Perry seemed fitting additions to the list, but somehow didn’t seem likely to happen, unfortunately. Behind the stage hung a luxuriant, dark red curtain which was artistically arranged to complete the glorious setting.
Promptly at eight o’clock, seated or not, the show began and the sounds of a low drone reached out to the audience as the song “Niereka” (from the 1996 album, Spiritchaser) opened up the show. A deep blue light surrounded Lisa Gerrard, Brendan Perry and their fellow musicians on stage, accentuating the mystical mood that their music created.
Upon the official word of the Dead Can Dance break up back in 1999, it seemed that this day would never happen, but thank God, Brendan and Lisa are back (at least for this world tour anyway). For some (like myself), who have only seen their performance from their video “Toward the Within”, this has been a dream come to fulfillment and more. The video successfully captured the essence of their show, but it in no way compares to the experience of being there with them in a theatre as lavish and extravagant as this.
Brendan Perry sang with an intensity and passion on songs like “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove” and “American Dreaming”. The lighting on “How Fortunate the Man With None” helped give a magical feel as Brendan took us through the ages in a nine minute span. Lisa Gerrard’s vocals were stirring as they resounded through the theatre in a way I’ve never heard before. Her vocals have always somehow been able to capture the sounds of all the sadness of mankind over the centuries and also a dark beauty that is hard to put into words; it was equally hard to focus on watching her sing as it was so overwhelming. Songs like “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” had absolute silence except for the sound of her voice, everyone was spellbound by her. It was clear the audience was moved by the show, as many would offer standing ovations between songs, often-times surprising even Lisa.
The set list offered a great variety of well known songs that spanned over their lengthy career as well as a few songs that may not be as known like “Dreams Made Flesh” from the This Mortal Coil album “It’ll End in Tears” and “The Lotus Eaters” from the Dead Can Dance box set “1981-1998”.
Between songs, they were a well oiled machine, switching musicians around as well as the instruments being played; it was impressive how efficiently they prepared for each song. Brendan was the main speaker to the audience, informing us that they are selling copies of each performance on this tour and also he introduced the band to us. I regretfully, did not catch all the names of the equally talented performers that were on stage with them, but feel they did a great job; everything sounded perfect.
“Rakim” saw some of the audience dancing to the world beat and the songs end signified the first encore of the show. For at least five minutes, the audience screamed, clapped and even got to a point of stomping; it was pretty intense hearing the level of which they wanted more music.
When they returned to the stage, again, Lisa smiling and seemingly amazed at the audience, they retook their places and hit the audience with a somewhat faster paced rendition of “Black Sun”. Ending the first encore with the powerful song entitled “Yulunga (spirit dance)” the lighting on stage circulated patterns on the back curtain, likening it to spirits flying in through air, it was very well done.
Another 5 minutes of screaming and stomping brought them back for their second and final encore, which consisted of “Severance” and “Hymn for the Fallen” sung by Lisa. It was an amazing piece, hearing her sing all in English with almost a jazz kind of feel to the song. It was a positive song to end the night with, having lyrics like “So don’t worry, all will wash away when we pray”. It was a bit unexpected, but nothing Brendan and Lisa do really surprises me as everything they do is amazing.
At the end of the show, Lisa said “The people of Chicago are very special” a very kind remark to make, indeed and I believe it is safe to say that we Chicagoans feel that Dead Can Dance is very special and we hope this will not be the last we hear of them… come back again soon!
Photos © 2005 by: Beth Shandles
Review by: Dennis M. Kelly
On the cover of Anastasis, Dead Can Dance’s first album in 16 years: a field of sunflowers, ripened, and then blackened, by the sun, standing with sad, slightly crowned heads. Less dead than dormant, the heads and stems will one day be chopped, but then via the roots, will return. For Anastasis is the Greek word for ‘resurrection’ and the seemingly dead will dance again.
“I thought Anastasis was a good title given our reunion,” explains Brendan Perry, who, with Lisa Gerrard, formed the band in Melbourne, Australia in 1981, releasing seven studio albums, and one live album, before going their own ways after 1996’s Spiritchaser. “Anastasis also means ‘in between two stages’,” he adds. “Regeneration comes with the next season.”
Anastasis is perfectly apt given how the album is an astonishing regeneration of the legendary beauty, power and spellbinding nature of the duo’s unique sound and vision. Age hasn’t withered DCD, not the passing of the years; if anything, the album sounds bolder, stronger, more confident in its vision. There’s surely no other musical force on the planet that sounds so stately and yet mesmeric; who combine so effortlessly the spiritual and the earthbound with music that’s not tied to any one century, but roams freely between the ages as well as the continents.
There have been sublime Gerrard and Perry solo albums before Spiritchaser and since that unintentional finale (album sessions for a follow-up were eventually abandoned), but there is something unbeatable about the combination of these two musical minds and voices; and two voices, don’t forget, that are brilliant forces of nature in their own right. Gerrard takes the lead on four tracks, “Anabasis”, “Agape”, “Kiko” and “Return of the She-King”, delivered in her wordless Glossolalia, while Perry fronts the remaining four of “Children of the Sun”, “Amnesia “, “Opium “ and “All In Good Time”, whose lyrics embrace the faiths and hopes of humankind, working through our limitations, weaknesses and habits.
“Children of the Sun” is the album’s ‘welcome to the show’, statement said Perry. The lyric addresses human evolution and how our genetic code is infused with ancient memory, right up to the present, celebrating nature – the Woodstock generation’s legacy. “Amnesia” weaves themes of humanity’s collective social amnesia – “how the victors always write history, and if we retain the real truth, we won’t keep repeating the same mistakes” – and how we depend on our memories for our humanity, and that the Greeks saw memory as the greatest muse of all.
“Opium”, says Perry, is more nihilistic, “that opiate state of mind, a form of depression, that traps you, whether it’s addiction or just circumstances. To not be able to choose a road as they all seem to lead nowhere.” But “All In Good Time” is a positive finale, underlining the old adage that good things come to those who wait; as we grow with age and experience, we see the benefit of not expecting everything to arrive at once.
A Greek word to represent the album is equally derived from the music’s origins. While Perry can hear echoes of DCD past, “from right across our catalogue,” he reckons the core of Anastasis can be found, “slap bang” in the near-Eastern Mediterranean, from Greece and Turkey across to North Africa. “The music I listen to and research becomes both unconsciously and consciously part of a new project, and for this album, I’ve been fascinated by the classic immutable elements of Greek culture, the depth of their music and their love for song that you don’t get as much in the west; the way they combine philosophy and love songs, and throw a bit of science in there too. I love the eastern influence that comes from being a crossroads between east and west, the kaleidoscopic mosaic of those fused cultures, while the further west you go, the more it’s a mono-cultural society.
“Also the instrumentation we choose to work with suggests what the music should become. “Opium” – which uses a Moroccan Sufi 6/8 rhythm – and “Anabasis” feature the Hang, a cross between a West Indian steel drum and a gamelan gong.”
Perry says the duo have been talking about another album since Dead Can Dance’s world tour of 2005. But that extensive tour was exhausting, and the incentive was lacking, so it was put on the backburner until calendars could again be synchronised – not so easy since Perry lives in the centre of Ireland (the land of his ancestors), where Anastasis was recorded (at Perry’s converted church studio Quivvy) and Gerrard lives in Southern Australia. Once upon a time, they left Melbourne for London, settling many floors up in a council block on the Isle of Dogs, putting whatever pittance they had into their music.
Signed by 4AD and releasing their first album in 1984, the duo drew rapturous reviews for albums that spanned neo-classical and folk across time and geography, each album selling to a progressively larger audience, the emotional drama of their coming to the attention of the San Francisco ballet, Hermes Perfume and a documentary on Hitler and Stalin; likewise motion pictures such as Heat, The Crossing Guard and Baraka. Gerrard developed her own solo film soundtracks – The Gladiator and The Insider, for example – while Perry worked on solo albums such as 1999’s Eye Of the Hunter and 2008’s Ark. The pair dissolved their physical relationship in the early ‘ 90s but something keeps them together – a bond of deep friendship and musical compatibility and understanding, and so Anastasis is born, and Dead Can Dance regenerated.
Free of any contractual commitments to 4AD, DCD have paired up with Play It Again Sam, who are releasing Anastasis in time for the duo’s most extensive world tour ever, which starts in Vancouver on August 9th and visits 4 continents throughout 2012 and 2013. And when the tour is over, Perry anticipates another DCD studio album will come together. The sunflower comes back season after season; there is no reason why Dead Can Dance, their spirit rekindled and their soul regenerated, won’t do exactly the same thing.
Martin Aston June 2012