Dead Can Dance, Hammersmith Apollo, 4 May 2019

It was bucket list time again. I’ve been listening to DCD for many years, always beguiled by Lisa Gerrard’s extraordinary contralto, and Brendan Perry’s velvet baritone. Plus those instruments. And there they are in front of us in that cathedral of music, the Hammersmith Apollo, probably my favourite concert hall. The best seats we could get were upstairs in the circle, but nowhere in this venue is too far away from the stage. It is not a stadium. The acoustics are great – at least good enough for my tinnitus-trashed hearing.

They arrived on stage promptly, Gerrard wearing her trademark flowing robe, quasi-beehive hair and lots of spangly things. Perry doesn’t even try to compete; though the female keyboard player equally wears a long flowing dress, just enough to complement Gerrard and not to out-do. There are five other male players, three dedicated to percussion, another keyboard player and bass. But this lot are multi-instrumentalists and vocalists of the highest order.

I did not try to create my own set list, but I think this one from Nantes is about right. I was wondering two things before seeing them. First, would this be the Dionysus tour – a promotion for their current album which, although good, probably will not go down as their best? Second, will they be generous? The answers were no and yes. In fact, they played only “Dance of the Bacchantes” from Dionysus. The audience were attentive, knowledgeable and appreciative. Gerrard started cautiously. I don’t know much about singing, but voices are delicate things and when one has one like Gerrard’s, I suppose they need warming up before the owner lets rip on songs like “Sanvean” and “Avartar”.

The same could not be said of Perry whose opener, “Anywhere out of the World”, set the pace like a football team trying to tire out the opposition rather than outwit them on the field. His voice started to break up about half way through the set, he left the stage seeking some palliative. “My voice is fucked”, he said as he departed. On his return, the treatment seemed to have been effective. He got through “The Carnival is Over” a song about freaks in the circus visiting his childhood home in East London in the 1970s. As the set list shows, there were two encores. Perhaps one too many for Perry. And this is very much the start of the tour. Fingers crossed for him (a couple of nights’ rest) and future audiences.

That aside, this was one of the most memorable musical performances I can remember, The players generate a consummate sound, very much appreciated by Gerrad who, like a conductor of an orchestra, asks the audience to applaud particular players and sections at the end of the piece. The DCD percussion section is clearly integral. For my untrained ear they were beat perfect.

Two hours in total. Pure pleasure for us, hard work for them.

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