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Music Review Dead Can Dance

WILL STONE is mesmerised by a riveting retrospective that does justice to an eclectic and haunting 40-year history

DEAD CAN DANCE
Hammersmith Apollo

CULT goth band Dead Can Dance, spearheaded by breathtaking vocalists and founding members Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, have explored a rich tapestry of many varied genres and world music instrumentation over their long and illustrious 40-year history.

Performing in front of a backdrop of autumnal leaves and colourful projections, the scene is set for a riveting retrospective that spans their back catalogue — with some songs not played live for many years.

There’s the pure goth of Mesmerism and Avatar from sophomore album Spleen and Ideal, the tribal percussion and chanting of Cantata off Within The Realm Of The Dying Sun and Black Sun from the medieval-influenced Aion.

Fittingly then, the stage is arrayed with many an esoteric instrument from the dulcimer to the berimbau and bouzouki. Finger cymbals, shakers, gongs and a djembe drum all make an appearance.

Yet to do justice to the dozens of instruments heard across the group’s nine studio albums, many of their more eclectic sounds had instead to be rendered by synthesisers — one of which was played by impressive support act, the Scottish singer-songwriter Astrid Williamson.

Perry, who once said the inspiration for their name came from the idea that by playing an instrument you are making the dead dance, brings the roof down with a voice somewhere in between the lonesome croon of Scott Walker and the plaintive pathos of a Gregorian chanter.

His resonant pitch is the perfect counterpoint to Gerrard’s chanting glossolalia, which ranges from contralto to mezzo-soprano, made famous in her award-winning soundtracks — most notably for Gladiator and The Whale Rider.

Robert Perry, Brendan’s younger brother, also joins the eight-piece on-stage, showing a flair for playing a medley of percussion instruments. 

The near two-hour set also offers a great rendition of the beautifully poignant The Carnival Is Over while the vibrant Dance Of The Bacchantes brings the stage alive.

An encore showcases the strengths of the two core members as solo artists, with Gerrard’s jaw-dropping version of the 19th-century Irish ballad The Wind That Shakes The Barley and Perry’s beautifully bleak Severance rounding off the night in typically funereal style.

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