Concert Review: Dead Can Dance, August 23, Sony Centre

dead can dance

I have often pondered what makes a live performance great. This point of conversation has been discussed ad-nauseum at the Panic Manual, and while the specific response varies from contributor to contributor, most everyone describes what I will label as an experiential exchange. It’s not that listening at home to an album isn’t an experience; it’s just that it’s a one-sided experience. There’s distance between the art and its reception–and it’s not what I would call a shared connection.

Perhaps this is why the embarkment of Dead Can Dance’s current world tour is what I can only describe as gutsy. After a 14-year departure, this is their first tour featuring a new album since 1998’s aborted follow-up to Spiritchaser. Touring new material must be akin to a director’s experience of watching their film with an audience for the first time (although to Lisa Simpson’s point, “Why would they come to our concert just to boo us?“)–but this is where I see the difference between acts who have been consistently recording and performing music over the years. and those who disbanded and moved on for good.

Perry and Gerrard both had healthy solo careers with 4AD, and through Ivo Russell-Watts‘s distribution deal with Warner Bros., rose to become major players in the world music scene. Though I was familiar with the sepia-toned aesthetic of 4AD (particularly since one of my friends was a major collector and Russell-Watts devotee) through acts like the Cocteau Twins and Red House Painters, I would only ever see Dead Can Dance in rummaging through the thin “import” sections in record stores when I was in high school. It’s amazing to think how much has changed in the music industry since then through the internet (their new label is PIAS), and even more amazing to see the devotion and craftsmanship it used to take to shape a career over decades.

Luckily, what I quickly found on Thursday night’s show was that DCD’s prolific career was not a prerequisite for enjoying their stage presence though it was clear from the outset that their devoted fan base had been anticipating this for almost a year.While we were getting seated, the couple in front of us let us know that they had purchased their tickets 10 months in advance in a special pre-sale, received free t-shirts in the mail, and got a $30 discount (so it pays to plan, kids!).

The show started promptly at 8:00 opening with a percussionist David Kuckhermann’s opening act that was a thorough education through the various instruments he was using–the most interesting being a dimpled “flying saucer” drum. It was a short set, with an Iranian vocalist joining him for a couple of songs. By the time he wrapped it was roughly 8:30, and there were still people trickling in. While the show wasn’t officially sold out, it was certainly well-attended, and the acoustics in the Sony Centre (the Hummingbird to the rest of us) for this first leg promised an amazing aural experience.

The thing that strikes me most about performances from more established acts with larger followings is how everything runs like clockwork when there’s more money and resources to invest in a tour. As we are more accustomed to seeing acts that go to Lee’s Palace or the Horseshoe, most of what you see is the unbelievable grind that is involved with touring without the massive support and sales of a label. In fact, I’d say that this pool of resources is the only very advantageous thing about being on a label with girth since the landscape of the internet has changed music distribution. More importantly, there is the luxury of thought put into booking venues (with seats, which we aren’t used to).

As with most of our favorite all-time shows, there was a visual component to DCD’s set. A net of twinkling lights made for a simple but impactful backdrop. The crowd rose to a roar when Perry and Gerrard took the stage with ample and quick representation of the recent Anastasis album–but as IKVDK noted in the longest review they have ever written, nothing prior to 1994. No matter. I find with most of these reunion tours, that the renewed enthusiasm that acts experience in performing new material is refreshing. I guess I can understand wanting to hear a song or two, but after 20-odd years of hearing the same requests yelled out time and time again, the temptation to phone it in must be great. In short, I think bands should play whatever the hell they want.

Gerrard looked and sounded fantastic, receiving fervant applause after her difficult vocal solos, but the best parts were definitely the ones where both Perry and her were together and cohesive as a unit as opposed to two solo acts. I suppose that this is the general way Anastasis was composed. Opium was my favorite track off the album both in recorded and live formats.

What really sets the live experience of seeing DCD is their diverse and devoted fanbase. One of the funniest parts of the evening was when an ardent fan was so overjoyed he bleated like a hybrid goat, dog, jungle cat. Perry responded by saying “Who let the dogs out?” while the audience errupted in laughter. As with all memorable shows, there was definitely an exchange of energy, with the show taking on a life of its own throughout the course of the extensive 2.5 hour set. Raucous outcalls are a symtom of every Toronto show, no matter what the venue is.

Several standing ovations later, there were three encores, and the warm reception genuinely seemed to touch the band. It should not have come as a surprise though…they gave everything they had and we simply received.


  1. Children Of The Sun (Anastasis 2012)
  2. Anabasis (Anastasis 2012)
  3. Rakim (Toward The Within 1994)
  4. Kiko (Anastasis 2012)
  5. Lamma Bada (N/A)
  6. Agape (Anastasis 2012)
  7. Amnesia (Anastasis 2012)
  8. Sanvean (Toward The Within 1994)
  9. Niereka (Spiritchaser 1996)
  10. Opium (Anastasis 2012)
  11. The Host of Seraphim (Serpent’s Egg 1998)
  12. Ime Prezakias (N/A)
  13. Now We Are Free (Gladiator Soundtrack 2000)
  14. All In A Good Time (Anastasis 2012)
First Encore
  1. The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove (Into The Labyrinth 1993) 16. Dreams Made Flesh (It’ll End In Tears 1984)
Second Encore
  1. Song to the Siren (It’ll End In Tears 1984)
  2. Return of the She-King (Anastasis 2012)
Third Encore
  1. Rising of the Moon (N/A)


Posted on by Allison in Concerts

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2 Responses to Concert Review: Dead Can Dance, August 23, Sony Centre

  1. Skippy38

    I thought I’ve seen it all, until my first DCD gig. Pure magic!

  2. Thesithempire

    I’m surprised they’re skipping a LOT of older material in favor of the new album. I understand that they have to support the new album, but I thought a more balanced set would be in the offing.

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