One cannot simply review a Dead Can Dance concert, especially if they're a fan of their music for so many years, like I am. I have been listening their exceptional music course from the first time I heard their music (The Serpent's Egg, Lisa's voice on Host Of Seraphim surprising and nailing me down in a popular record shop in Thessaloniki back in 1988). I had the immense luck to see them live in 1996 when they came here at the Forest Theatre, touring for what would be their last studio album for many years (Spiritchaser). And this year they released a new studio album, Anastasis (Greek for Ressurection) and tour again. Thessaloniki was again in their itinerary, unlike their 2005 reunion and tour. This was an opprtunity not to be missed.
The day was cold and windy but sunny, after a big storm and days of rain, not unusual for this time of year in Thessaloniki. I was worried that it would affect the concert but luckily the sky was clear and the half moon was travelling majestically on it while we walked up the path to the modern but ancient-styled ampitheatre that is Earth Theatre. The set was waiting for us, none of the fabric background stripes or lights that one can see in previous concerts present, as the wind would have made it unsafe for musicians and public alike. People were trickling in slowly, they kept coming even after the support act had finished.
David Kuckhermann opened the evening at 20:30, his amazing dexterity on traditional middle eastern percussion instruments impressing everyone. He played, amongst others, the hang and the tambourine (more familiar to us as deffi), and even explained to us the details of how hang is made and played. His music was incredible, sparce and haunting. He has his first cd out this year, which was available at the concert.
After a half hour intermission (with a steady flow of people still arriving, almost filling the theatre, many more watching from the top of the forest hill for free), it was time for Dead Can Dance to amaze us with their incredible music. I once said that if heaven exists and they have music in it, Dead Can Dance music it is. I still stand by that.
They opened with "Children of The Sun" from "Anastasis", Brendan's voice and Lisa's vocals sweeping us away with their power, the sound being incredible (kudos to their crew), people mesmerized by the sheer wonder of what Dead Can Dance music is.
They played many songs from Anastasis (Kiko, being actually a Greek zeimbekiko had people cheering, especially on Brendan's exquisite bouzouki solos) but also old favourites (still leaving out the Greek favourite Cantara) and some traditional songs like Lamma Bada, a medieval Arabic love song, and a Greek rempetiko song "Eimai Prezakias" (I'm A Junkie), which Brendan sung in Greek (his pronounciation much improved from the early stages of the tour) to the delight of the Greek audience who clapped and cheered and sung with him throughout:
Including all of the new album in their set list was a bit risky but the crowd seemed to know and love it already and was very enthusiastic. For me the best moments were whenever Lisa sang: her majestic voice always brings tears to my eyes and I don't recall a single song where she sang that I was not almost sobbing, Host Of Seraphim and Sanvean being the most touching. It is an experience I was lucky enough to live for a third time, thank you Lisa.
They had four people accompanying them on stage, a far cry (for budget reasons of course) from their 1996 concert here when they had ten musicians on stage with them. The other major difference was the use of synthesisers which was much more pronounced this time. Brendan played bouzouki and a weird guitar while Lisa played her beloved yangqin (Chinese dulcimer) and some synths. From her solo work we heard "Sanvean" (which was part of the 1996 Dead Can Dance set list as well) and "Now We Are Free" (from the Gladiator soundtrack, probably the weakest song of the evening). Brendan gave us a sparse version of Tim Buckley's "Song To The Siren", beautifully rendered.
After three encores, with two songs each, Lisa ended the concert with her amazing rendition of the Irish ballad "Rising Of The Moon". And then we had to somehow get back to reality.
Host of Seraphim:
The set list (if you see any mistakes feel free to correct me):
1. Children of the Sun
5. Lamma Bada
11. The Host of Seraphim
12. Ime Prezakias
13. Now We Are Free
14. All in Good Time
The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove
Dreams Made Flesh
Song to the Siren (Tim Buckley cover)
Return of the She-King
Rising of the Moon