Dead Can Dance, Playing Well Together

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Old goths never die; they just fill out their pirate shirts a bit more. That was true at Strathmore on Monday night when the reformed Dead Can Dance played a 20-song set to a faithful group of aging fans, many of whom wore black lace, red-velvet vests and Seinfeldesque puffy shirts like they never went out of fashion. I even saw a top hat and Dracula cape combo.

While the clothes of Dead Can Dance devotees haven't aged well, the music of the band they love certainly has: a rich blend of goth-rock, ancient church song and ethno-techno thump. Leaders and multi-instrumentalists Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard fronted a percussion-heavy band that featured eight people onstage at one point. The set generally alternated between Perry's tribal world-music tunes and Gerrard's dark ambient hymnals, and there's also a stark contrast in their voices: Perry has a strong rock baritone; Gerrard could croon an opera. But Dead Can Dance toured Europe in the spring using the same set list, so the group has perfected its grand performances, easily blending the leaders' differing styles into a coherent concert.

From the opening note of the opening song, "Nierika," people in the stage-side balcony sections stood and did the mystic boogaloo; those in the orchestra area were forced to merely shoulder-shimmy in their seats. But dance they did, and cheer, too, especially for the favorites "How Fortunate the Man With None," "The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove," "American Dreaming," "Sanvean" and "Rakim" and the encores "Black Sun," "Salem's Lot," "Yulunga" and show-ending "Hymn for the Fallen." As the final synth-piano notes were dying, Gerrard told the crowd to stay as they were. Pirate shirts and all.

-- Christopher Porter

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