Dead Can Dance – at Harborlights – Review

Dead Can Dance

at Harborlights
by Angela Dauthi

Settling down in my seat, I was amused, as always, at the fantastic mix of people assembled. Businessmen in ties and vests next to leather and black linen-clad white-faced Goth rockers next to lace-draped, silk-laden, New Agers. And they were all friendly! It’s amazing the way Dead Can Dance brings people together.

I knew I was in for a treat when the dragon started to emerge from the back of my head. This isn’t unusual for me, it happens whenever I start to trance out. I guess I have a thing for dragons, okay? Shut up. Go listen to Green Day or something. Anyway, the dragon showed up early, called by Lisa Gerrard’s otherworldly voice. Her talons grasped me lightly by the shoulders. Wings filled by rich beats and complex melodies carried me away. With a vast selection of music from which to choose, they had a wonderful mix of old and new material, and always the percussion. Five drummers across the stage, mixing a stew of rhythm. They conjured a magnificent summons, the winds outside furiously blowing the clouds about the sunset, my scaled companion swooping and spinning in the light thunderheads. As Brendan Perry’s voice resonated through the ether, I felt the vibrations running beneath my skin, getting into my marrow. There was one drummer who kept attracting my attention. He usually only played a low, simple backbeat, a pulse. He would start rocking back and forth as he played, and then he would start pacing in time to the music. By the end of the song, he was running in place, head bobbing to the beat, generating intensity with his whole body, each strike of the drum shooting energy across the audience. As the sky darkened, the musical power increased, sending me shooting across the sky, flitting about the roof of the world, cool breeze on my face and through my hair. There was a brief respite as Perry sang “American Dreaming,” bringing me back to earth, but after a few minutes of catching my breath, the music pushed me out of my body again. Toward the end, the guitarist played a flute solo, a blend of Native American and Japanese shakuhachi music, a dark mahogany sound, skimming the loam, channeling the energy into the earth, only to flower and burst into a thousand musical colors.

An hour and a half passed by too quickly. They left the stage to thunderous applause, only to come back and erupt into an extended drum groove, pure raw rhythm. The beat was reigning over all, the drums were royalty. As they roared toward the finish, we were all on our feet again. Brendan brought us down again, gently letting the energy melt away, settling us, bringing the show to complete closure. Everyone left with a faint smile – a congregation that had touched some form of divinity.