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Monday, August 13, 2012

Live Review, 8/12/2012: Dead Can Dance Hypnotizes Rabid Fans at the Greek Theatre

Posted By on Mon, Aug 13, 2012 at 11:14 AM

Dead Can Dance at the Greek Theatre last night.
  • Dead Can Dance at the Greek Theatre last night.
Dead Can Dance
Sunday, August 12, 2012
UC Berkeley, Greek Theatre

Better than: Listening to your Toward the Within CD while scribbling emo poetry.

Dead Can Dance didn't have to do much to get a standing ovation tonight. In fact, Lisa Gerrard, Brendan Perry, and the hired help got their first ovation simply for showing up, with the surprisingly chatty and vocally rambunctious audience rising wildly to its feet before the band even finished taking the stage. Two hours and three encores later, so much love had been directed towards Gerrard and Perry -- who release Anastasis, their first new Dead Can Dance album in over 15 years, on Tuesday -- that they almost seemed embarrassed.

All that fresh material to promote naturally meant a setlist heavy with new tunes -- and by "heavy," we mean "the whole album." That's all well and good, we suppose, since Anastasis is a solid return to form after 1996's swan song, the underwhelming Spiritchaser. But even the most swooning superfans can have a hard time getting excited for songs they've never heard, regardless of how rich the vocals or mesmerizing the lights might be. Clearly undaunted, Gerrard's elegantly angelic vocals rose and shone during the Persian-tinged "Agape" and "Anabasis," while Perry brought his more earthbound croon to the debut single "Amnesia," the memory-haunted "Opium," and the set-closing slow ebb of "All in Good Time."

The back catalog was not entirely neglected, however, with "The Host of Seraphim" (from The Serpent's Egg), "Nierika" (from Spiritchaser), "Rakim" (from Toward the Within), "Sanvean" (from Gerrard's solo album The Mirror Pool), and especially "The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove" (from Into the Labyrinth) resulting in frothy responses from the audience. The encores brought unexpected treasures as well, including a double-nod to the band's 4AD Records past via two versions of songs from This Mortal Coil's It'll End in Tears album: Perry translated the Tim Buckley-penned "Song for the Siren" with Neil-Diamond-gone-goth melodrama, while Gerrard took "Dreams Made Flesh" and made it even more diaphanous than on record. But even if three encores and a somewhat uneven setlist didn't satisfy everyone in the crowd, there was a celebratory atmosphere at night's end nonetheless. Dead Can Dance had finally returned -- and, even better, they sounded like they had never left.

Critic's Notebook

Separated at Birth: Did anyone else think the keyboardist looked just like David Brooks, resident columnist for The New York Times?

Dude, You Must Chill: The guy behind us was so excited that he whooped and hollered like he was at a Tenacious D frat party instead of a head-nodding, NPR-approved world fusion concert full of elder goths and middle-aged crystal hippies. We get it -- you love Dead Can Dance. Now can you please cease your bellowing?

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John Graham


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