Thursday, June 9, 2011

80s Goth icons take over Vancouver!

Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance

Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins had just taken the stage when I arrived at the Venue nightclub for an ethereal night with some 80s icons. I have to be honest here. Robin's solo work is good, and I enjoy ambient music when I'm in the right mood, even when it lacks vocals, but it was utterly lifeless to see on a stage. There was nothing interesting about watching three old men standing motionless on a stage, playing downtempo, ambient new age music for a crowd of misfits from the 80s; ex-goth kids reminiscing and fooling themselves into cheering for their idol, but not his music. Every song would finish the same as the last, to the crowd's drunken shouts and overzealous applause. But then, for one brief moment, things turned around with a song that picked up the pace. Crashing drums and chaotic noises brought Robin's set to an unexpected climax, finally coaxing a roar of genuine cheers and applause from the audience. By this time, I had found a seat at the back of the venue, so at least I could kick back and relax for the last few songs.

Robin Guthrie - Warmed by the Winter Sun

Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance took the headlining spot, and the polar opposite direction from Robin's set. The five-piece band had an instant energy, playing synthy rock ballads with Perry's powerful voice at the helm. The guy looks like a tough biker, bald and in his 50s with a goatee, so when they opened with the still-unreleased track “Tree of Life”, I was a little shocked by the raw power of his voice, even in falsetto! If you don't know his voice, think Nick Cave or Leonard Cohen but with a gothic rock band playing world beats. It's been over a decade since the last albums by Brendan Perry and Dead Can Dance, so he spent the first half of the set playing a mix of songs from Dead Can Dance's library and several of his own unreleased songs that I assume he wrote in the years between his 1999 solo album and his new album, Ark. Remarkably, when I look at my notes that I marked for each song, it's the unreleased songs that really stood out in the first half, with the exception of Dead Can Dance's “A Passage in Time”, in which is a nice ballad on record, but lacks lustre when compared to Perry's powerful live rendition.

The second half of the set began with a new song, “Icarus”, followed by a fantastic cover, where Robin Guthrie joined the band, taking lead guitar for Tim Buckley's “Song to the Siren”. Finally, the band got on to playing some of the best tracks off the new album Ark, with “This Boy” and “Wintersun”, and closing with “Utopia”. The band left the stage to the most genuine cheers of the night thus far, returning for the inevitable encore of two more Dead Can Dance tracks.

Brendan Perry - Babylon

The tour is finished now, but check out Robin Guthrie's new album Emeralds and Brendan Perry's new album Ark, both out now!


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