Dead Can Dance

Live Shot

Phases & Stages
Photo by Shelley Hiam

Dead Can Dance

ACL Live at the Moody Theater, Sept. 7

Romantic couplings in music – Sonny & Cher, Fleetwood Mac, Sonic Youth – seldom reach happily ever after. English liaisons – Richard & Linda Thompson, Cocteau Twins – smolder mostly below the surface, and once breached – Eurythmics, Wham – die. Australian Dead Can Dance dame Lisa Gerrard recalled getting together with UK émigré Brendan Perry when she was 17 (see Earache! Music blog, "Return of the She-King," Sept. 6), and 34 years on, while she clearly relishes resurrecting that shared history musically, he seems merely to tolerate it. On the surface of a workmanlike performance made unforgettable by the charged, rafters-full Moody, the reunited duo, which split acrimoniously after touring 1996's Spiritchaser, adhered perfectly to its characteristic eighth and new studio LP Anastasis. Bookending the 90-minute main set with incantory opener "Children of the Sun" and a slightly dour good-night, "All in Good Time" – both Perry's – Anastasis received a full airing as peppered by past hits ("The Host of Seraphim"). When interviewed, Gerrard made assurances that DCD's exes harmonize where they don't always on disc. Friday, as augmented by bass, drums, percussion, and two keyboardists, they sang together thrice, Perry going so far as to detail "Children of the Sun" with the backing band's damsel-esque keyboardist rather than his business partner. When Gerrard then unleashed her trademark cry on "Anastasis," it rang as thrilling as Cocteau Twin Elizabeth Fraser lurking in Massive Attack at the 2006 Austin City Limits Music Festival and Portishead at the old Austin Music Hall in 1998. Like Sinead O'Connor and Annie Lennox, Gerrard's booming cry balloons operatic – as if every stained glass panel in the cathedral were in imminent danger. Yodeling on "Rakim," her breathtaking command met her brand's world-pop fusion at unknown musical junctures – Egyptian, Cambodian, Persian, what? "Nine hundred years ago this song was in Arabic and probably in the Top 10," mused Perry on lament "Lamma Bada." One of his two new standouts, "Amnesia," he called an "Arabic rumba." On Perry's songs, Gerrard receded to the back of the stage, yet where his material met with respectful applause, her reception was ecstatic, particularly on desert island DCD hallmark "Sanvean," which grew in a depth and volume matching the rapturous applause that Perry unceremoniously cut off by prompting the next song. His pleasuring "Opium" almost made up for it and featured a rare assist from Gerrard, who clapped happily at its execution. The last night of the group's 15-date North American trek gave its best hand for Perry's initial encore, "The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove," and where Anastasis obviously wishes to let bygones be bygones, Dead Can Dance's future isn't so bright as to need shades.

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