Friday, August 17, 2012

Dead Can Dance, Alive Can Sit


In an outdoor theater outside of Seattle last Friday night, Blake, Mayan, and I saw Dead Can Dance perform. The band has been split up since 1998, and most people thought they would never reunite. Seeing them was an awesome experience, especially in the open air on a summer's eve.

 Possibly the sweetest thing I've ever seen: Blake helping Mayan with her eye make-up

The venue reminded me a lot of The Crowded House show we attended a few summers ago at McMenamin's Edgefield, and I suppose most outdoor summer concert venues have that same vibe. Grassy fields for parking, older crowd who listened to band 20 years ago and can afford to pay the ticket prices, some bringing their families, tiny compostable cups of red wine and micro-brews abound. And of course, the seating.

 Nothing says "Restoration" like a few hundred SUV's, sport wagons and luxury sedans.

At first we were so excited to get reserved seats through pre-ticket sales, avoiding the hit-and-miss of the grassy general admission seating area behind the reserved section. But as we approached the tidy rows of white chairs just as the first notes rang out, I realized that when the mesmerizing melodies washed over us we would all be...SITTING. Jesus Lord forbid, you are moved by the music and you want to dance (Dead Can DANCE!), because you'd be blocking someone who paid good money to sit on their ass to ingest this long-awaited experience. Which is FINE; that can be nice, too. It's just that as a crowd you have to collectively decide what you are going to do, and this massive crowd decided they were going to stay glued to their chairs.

The diplomatic extrovert in me fantasized about starting an actual conversation about sitting versus standing, and whether or not we could work something out that could get "all of our needs met." My proposal would have been: let's stand for the first two songs, then sit though the remainder of the set, then stand again for the encore. How does that sound, folks? Ok, smiles, nods, agreement, comradery. But, nooooooo, I just quietly bitched to Blake for a few minutes.

Partway through the show, I identified that guy--who was so moved by the music, he was having the hardest time staying in his chair. His hands were in the air most of the show, he shot out of his to seat to clap after every song, yelled out verbal encouragement and praise, and one song he even (gasp)...remained standing for the next number. I watched intently to see what would happen.....a passionate rebel, ignoring the law of the people...would the people take pity or see it as act of of mutiny? I counted about 36 seconds before the lady behind him tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to sit. He complied, neither graciously or non-graciously, but just succumbed to The Group.

  You can see Hands Guy in this video!

Mercy, did they sound GOOD. Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard sound as crystal as studio recordings from 20 years ago. It's amazing to me how some people's voices can hold out and stay so strong and beautiful over decades, and hearing their rich voices blended together in the flesh was truly a delight.

This was only the second show of their reunion tour, so the energy was still fresh. Plucking away at her hammered dulcimer, and dressed in silk and velvet gown, Ms. Gerrard looked much like a priestess, composed and serene. I often saw what looked like complete delight and gratitude on her face, as she basked in our applause. Being in the studio, recording soundtracks for movies like Gladiator and Whalerider, have quite a different reward than live performances, I imagine. Mr. Perry, who looks simply like any one's Social Studies teacher on summer vacation in a short sleeve shirt and casual pants, can both rattle and lighten the bones with his pleasing baritone and resonant 12-string. Their music is like a hand-picked selection of "the best of" world music with darkly melodic roots, orchestrating a variety of instruments and tongues into a diffusion of deliciously palatable sounds for our Western ears; this is done with an intensity that makes their bodies seems like vessels which ancient spirits and sounds are channeled through. Perhaps this is the inspiration to the name--the spirits of the dead are dancing through their voices and hands.

In the end, the best part of the evening, wasn't actually the show, or our succulent Italian dinner afterwards, or our familiar and posh hotel room in downtown Seattle we retreated to post-show. The best part was that is was a great date with our oldest daughter, Mayan. She, too, is a lover of music, no matter what the are, she loves all things goth and lace, and keeps DCD on her iPod. While she has an especially tight relationship with her dad (the two are cut from the same yard of fabric, I swear), her and I have had a rockier, oil-and-water type connection....pretty much since birth. The past year or so, we've been able to come to an understanding place, and though she is in the throws of great changes, we've been surprisingly close, and able to appreciate our differences for the first time in years. Her father and I found it truly refreshing to have a chance to take her along with us on what would usually be Just Us, and still have it be relaxing despite "having a kid with us." Her presence really enriched our experience, because it reminded us she really isn't a kid anymore, she's a lovely, creative, sensitive, and funny young woman, and ready to partake in more mature adventures. I look forward to many more!





  1. I cannot resist!! I love the evolution of it all. It sounds like an amazing evening. I remember concerts my parents took me to, and they are some of my most cherished memories. The picture of Blake and Mayan actually brought tears to my eyes. Some day your kids will understand the power that he has in their lives and it will be shocking and intense. May they see the love and beauty that completely dominates that photo.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your Dead Can Dance experience. Particularly thanks for the audio clip. The pictures were sweet and you know Mayan will always remember it. With tears in my eye, I see an unbroken cultural line stretching from me, through Blake and into Mayan. All my love DDDDDDD