Nothing beats a home town crowd, it seems. The devoted and faithful gathered at the Palais mid-week to witness the return to Melbourne of Dead Can Dance, a band who formed in Prahran in 1981 and last played as a group on these shores at least 20 years ago (some say more like 30).
Though the group, which at its core has always been Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, split in the late 90s, they have, like so many other acts of that decade, reformed to tour on the back of a new album, Anastasis (their first in 16 years).
Since their heyday coincided with the blooming of my musical tastes via the discovery of 90s indie music, DCD (on the beautifully cool label 4AD) were a band I was always aware of but never actually listened to. So, though far from a die hard fan, I attended the gig with an appreciative ear and a fondness for the new album, still fresh in my head as a recent download.
On stage with five other musicians, an even split of electronic and traditional instruments between them, the night kicked off with the opening track of the new album, Children of the Sun, which sounded huge in the cavernous theatre. Silhouetted against a vibrant green stage courtesy of a simple but striking lighting show, this opener was simple, serene and majestic – and sounded amazingly close to the recorded version.
Perry led many of the songs with a deep, measured booming voice while he played Bouzouki (among other instruments), and Gerrard stunned with her clear but powerful tone, singing often with an Indian style lilt and accompanying on dulcimer.
What with the full sound of ebbing synth chords punctuated by pounding drum beats (a pleasing mix of kick drum thud and hand-to-skin thwap) and the high contrast lighting, this was a memorably full-sensory show that, at two hours, would probably test the non-faithful.
Obviously there were few of those in this audience. Perry and Gerrard charmed the crowd as the night drew on, judging by the more and more frequent appreciative audience call-outs. And though the set was dominated by the new album, the return to older tracks drew yet more enthusiastic responses. The band were clearly responding in turn as they played on.
At the end of the set, a roaring audience summoned an encore that finished with a standing ovation, and then brought forth a second and third reappearance. The last saw Gerrard on stage alone except for a single accompanying keyboardist, performing Rising of the Moon. The final applause prompted her to utter her first words of the night outside of song: "I love you".
The Frontier Touring Company presents
DEAD CAN DANCE
Venue: Palais Theatre | Lower Esplanade, St Kilda Vic
Date: Wednesday, 6th Feb 2013
Tickets: $82.50 – $84.32
Bookings: Ticketmaster 136 100