Music review: Dead Can Dance, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Drawing on musical traditions from Ireland to India, Dead Can Dance offered an intoxicating melange of influences at their first ever Glasgow show, writes Fiona Shepherd

Dead Can Dance PIC: Stefan Raduta
Dead Can Dance PIC: Stefan Raduta

Dead Can Dance, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ****

A mere 40 years after forming in Melbourne, cult neo-classical gothic world music outfit Dead Can Dance finally made it to Glasgow on the opening night of their Europa tour. Time to get it on, bang a gong, hammer a dulcimer, strum a bouzouki and emit otherworldly utterances. This enigmatic ensemble are a go-to for aural exotica on film and television soundtracks; in person, they delivered an intoxicating melange of influences, drawing on musical traditions from Turkey to Tibet, Ireland to India.

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Frontwoman Lisa Gerrard is the high priestess of global gothdom, her extraordinary alto resonating somewhere between opera diva and sacred singer with her own incantatory language. Her musical partner Brendan Perry is a more conventionally emotive vocalist with a plaintive baritone croon, all the better to convey the heartworn sentiments of The Carnival Is Over and the tribal pomp of Black Sun.

They were joined by Shetland singer/songwriter Astrid Williamson on keyboards and backing vocals and a number of impressively bearded gents on an orchestral array of percussion and woodwind. Even with this multi-instrumental line-up, such was the scope of their cultural references that some of their pan-global sound palette was sampled and played through synthesizers.

With nine studio albums in their catalogue, there were riches to spare. Their version of Persian Love Song was performed for the first time in almost 30 years, while Gerrard’s stunning take on The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Perry’s resonant Severance were more akin to greatest hits. They closed the main set with their most cathartic and atmospheric standard, The Host of Seraphim, augured by doomy drone and tolling toms and elevated to a devotional plane by the band members’ monastic mantras and Gerrard’s spinetingling and spellbinding ululation.

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