I was in Dublin last weekend, where I went to the Dead Can Dance concert on Sunday at the Bord Gaís Energy Theatre.
It’s been just over seven years since I last saw Dead Can Dance. It was in Bethesda on October 10th, and they were on their 2005 World Tour. I find it hard to believe that it has been so long. So much has changed, and it almost takes an event like this to measure the accumulated years of subtle influences.
One thing hasn’t changed: Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry and the other touring members of Dead Can Dance are amazing musicians.
DCD never seems to have become a household name, but I hear them regularly being used as background in television journals and documentaries. Perhaps many people have heard them but don’t recognize their name or have heard Lisa Gerrard who has a number of film credits and who co-wrote and sung the theme to the film Gladiator.
The concert opened with the lead song from DCD’s new album Anastasis, “Children Of The Sun.” I was knocked away by the sound and mesmerized by the tiny shining figures on the stage.
As the music enveloped me I thought again how much of a shame it is that I don’t listen to music much anymore. It’s not that I don’t want to listen, but somehow I’ve forgotten about music, which was always an important part of my life.
As I listened, I began to wonder why. Is it because I don’t have a lot of time to listen to music anymore? Is it because there is too much noise pollution everywhere, and if I turn up the volume in my headphones enough to hear all the nuances above the din it hurts my ears? Is it because I don’t have a good sound system anymore (the amp was co-opted for the video projector and surround sound system, which I can’t use now at home). Without a good amp and good quality inputs, there’s no escaping that it just isn’t the same.
This is the sort of concert where you want to sit quietly just to listen. Unfortunately, the sound was too loud. I hadn’t expected to need my earplugs; DCD isn’t the kind of group where you know your ears will bleed if you don’t put them in. I was surprised, but after the third song, I ended up rummaging in my purse to find them. I had a special pair made a few years ago, and while they do a pretty good job of attenuating without spectral distortion, it’s clear that some of the nuances and dynamic range are lost compared to unobstructed listening. I think I’m going to have to get used to using my earplugs more in the future. Young people today have grown up with liberal use of ear buds and headphones, so many of them just don’t seem to have the hearing acuity that young people of their age group had ten or twenty years ago. As a consequence, sound at all kinds of live events from concerts to theatre and film will become louder to be more accessible to growing numbers of hearing-impaired audience members.
Despite all that, hearing the group again live, I was still impressed by how powerful both Brendan and Lisa are as singers. Their music doesn’t seem to get old, either. They played a mix from the new album and older compositions familiar to long-time fans. The sounds of Anastasis, which means resurrection in Greek, are new but unmistakably DCD. There were a few covers too. Notably Brendan, who played a bouzouki for much of the concert, sang a rebetiko song (in support of the people of Greece?), Ime Prezakias (video, lyrics and an interesting explanation of the song at here at YouTube. Notice too the audience of cell phones).
I don’t remember a light show from the 2005 concert, but I don’t think I’ll forget this one. Dancing, pulsing, orbs of light behind a sheer white curtain reflected the otherworldly feeling so characteristic of DCD’s music, especially their earlier work. It seemed as if the lights of distant worlds and civilizations were penetrating the darkness just behind the stage. Without being distracting, the lights were as beautiful for eyes as the concert was for the ears.
There was a time when DCD fans were outwardly Goth, attending concerts dressed in typical deathly looking clothes and makeup. This doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Most of the people in the audience were dressed in casual street wear. That was also true the last time I saw them in Bethesda.
I thought some of the best moments were during the encores. Those that thought the long wait for the first encore meant the band wouldn’t be coming back for a second one missed some wonderful moments in the show. The audience called them back and they came out again three times. Seeing and hearing Lisa and Brendan together in the spotlight with the autoharps was beautiful.