– Cathedral, Manchester –

Dead Can Dance

Dead Can Dance

It’s hard not to be seduced by Dead Can Dance. A look at one of the band’s pretty record sleeves, or a read-through of an intriguing list of track titles seemingly drawn from the same well of thought as ex-4AD label mates Cocteau Twins, and resistance becomes futile. The desire to know what this musical artist sounds like inevitably overwhelms. Tones and textures are dark and mysterious, and rhythms can be lively – a listen and the name “Dead Can Dance” is reconciled in the imagination.

Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry have taken their world music project to a lot of venues on a global scale in the last 40 years, but few can have been as well-suited as the gothic Manchester Cathedral. Tonight is date two of the band’s epic, 31-night Europa 2022 tour. Fans are particularly excited because for the first time really in the band’s career, recent setlists have begun to mine the entire back catalogue for their performance material.

Arriving on stage to a backdrop of tree-like shapes, our seven-piece hosts provide a low-key beginning as gong strikes send quivering waves of sound across the cathedral’s sold-out nave. On ‘Yulunga’, Gerrard takes us to an Aboriginal spirit dance with her mesmerising chanting, and during the songs that follow we’re off to India and Persia and everywhere exotic. At one point I momentarily have a faux recognition of the chanting from the Temple of Doom movie, then during the next song the woman next to me breaks into a ‘snake charmer’ dance.

The sounds are all so deliciously dark. Perry’s rich baritone looms over guitars, bouzouki, dulcimer, synths and various percussion instruments, contrasting wonderfully with Gerrard’s contralto as the duo take turns singing lead. 1993 hit single ‘The Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove’, in which the character is said to be Perry’s alter-ego, is greeted with glee by the audience and recalls Talk Talk with its desperate refrain. ‘Avatar’ sees Gerrard return from backstage and is a song that dates from as far back as 1985’s ‘Spleen and Ideal’, an album that has local relevance for its cover photo that features a Salford Quays grain elevator.

Just as my aural senses are telling me I might be passing through medieval Europe, my visual senses align and bring to mind Vatican City’s Sistine Chapel, as an array of colourful lights are projected onto the cathedral wall. A flute intro soon leads us to Ireland on the traditional arrangement of ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’ on what is a spellbinding performance from Gerrard, before Perry draws a career-spanning and globe-trotting set to a close with ‘Severance’.

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Steve Jones

Apart from about five years in total, I've always lived in Manchester. Shame about the weather and lack of beach, but I do like it here. My all-time favourite gig would have to be The National at the Academy in about 2010, although I did get Matt Berninger's mic cable wrapped around my neck (that was a close one). My guilty pleasures include the music of Bruce Springsteen, and I also felt a bit bad for feeling such joy at seeing Counting Crows live in the early 2000s. I recommend Lifter Puller, a rather obnoxious and unpleasant-sounding band that I can't seem to get enough of, even though they are long disbanded. Amongst my Silent Radio gigs, I was blown away by John Murry. I'll let you know if anything tops that one.