Tag Archive for ‘Concert’

The Dancing Dead in Denver

The Dancing Dead in Denver

After a 16 year hiatus, the talented and diverse group of musicians known as Dead Can Dance (DCD) returned with a much anticipated album entitled Anastasis, followed by a world tour.  On August 19, they played to a packed Buell Theater at the Denver Performing Arts Center.

ImageLead vocalists Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry formed the band thirty-one years ago in Melbourne, Australia.  Incorporating instruments from all over the world, the duo have crafted a plethora of albums that run the gamut of musical influences from Ireland to Africa to the Mediterranean to China.

But the real power behind DCD comes from the vocals of the duo.  Gerrard is renowned for singing in Glossolalia, an evocative expression of emotion through voice that has no defined language.  Gerrard has stated in interviews she feels language to be too restrictive, and Glossolalia to be a more authentic expression that communicates to all who listen, regardless of language or culture.  Her songs are ephemeral, haunting, and painfully beautiful.

Perry grounds DCD with his solemn vocals and introspective lyrics. Many of his songs originate from centuries-old ballads, reliving the struggles humans have endured in love, loss and that ceaseless search for meaning and purpose. “We are ancient, as ancient as the sun.  We came from the ocean, once our ancestral home,” sings Perry in one of their latest songs, “Children of the Sun.”

The show opened with DCD percussionist David Kuckhermann sitting alone on stage.  On his lap was a mysterious-looking instrument called a hang.  Created in Bern, Switzerland, the instrument consists of two large metal bowls sealed together.  Kuckhermann would strike the top side with his hand, producing different tones depending on where he hit the pitted surface.  The hang was tuned to a specific eight-tone scale.  The audience grew overwhelmingly quiet as he played, the single percussion instrument filling the entire auditorium with eerie, otherworldly music.

Soon the entire band took to the stage and the crowd was on their feet, cheering before the first note was played.  DCD opened with songs from their latest album, Perry’s voice booming through the theater just as strong and stirring as it was thirty-one years ago.

The energy of the fans (mostly the older fans) swelled when DCD began playing pieces from their previous albums.  The celebrated song “Rakim” began with Gerrard playing the yang-ch’in: a stringed instrument of Chinese origin in which padded bamboo sticks are used to strike a series of strings corresponding to specific scales.  Perry accompanied the yang-ch’in with his own Glossolalia.

As the concert moved forward, the music stirred many audience members out of their seats, several finding their way to the back of the auditorium to dance.  Others leaned forward in their chairs, closing their eyes and allowing the music to saturate the senses.  A few even wiped away lingering tears from wet cheeks.

The Latin phrase Tempus Fugit (time flies) was analogous to the audience’s experience.  Almost too quickly the entire theater stood and applauded as the band left the stage.  But as the auditorium remained dark, the adoration only grew louder and more intense.  Soon DCD returned, Perry signing a fan favorite, “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove” with the sound of sitars weaving through his dynamic vocals.   Still, the crowd was insatiable and cheered after another exit of the band.  And then another, Gerrard returning for the third encore with her mesmerizing voice accompanied only by a keyboard player.

At the end of the concert, though Gerrard’s voice could carve canyons with its intensity and precision, she quietly leaned forward into the microphone, whispering a thank you to the audience, followed by “you are all beautiful.”

ImageAnastasis is fitting lexicon not just for the new album but for the entire concert experience.  Coming from the Greek word meaning resurrection, DCD brought to life long forgotten music and ancient instruments from all over the world, bringing with them the spirits of those musicians who lived and died centuries before Denver was even a city.

And in the back of the Buell Theater, where audience members stood and sang and danced, you could see the dead dancing right along with them.

Things Most Gay Men Don’t Like: Metal

Mastodon finishes shredding the frenzied crowd.  The drummer tosses his sticks into the throng.  The lights go up.

It’s between sets, so I sit with my back against a metal barrier that separates me from the larger crowd below.  I shove in a pair of earbuds, turning up “Black Rose Immortal.”  A twenty-minute Opeth piece of metal magnificence and mayhem that chokes out the white noise of conversations around me.

There’s something about heavy metal that’s primal. Cathartic.  A juxtaposition of raw, exposed animosity eviscerated and dismembered by beauty herself, left on the dusty ground in a pool of blood to die—with a smile.

The lights drop, and I jump to my feet.  I yank out the earbuds.  The crowd stirs.  The only illumination comes from the Fillmore Theater chandeliers hanging from the ceiling—glowing purple.  Movement on the stage.  The crowd starts yelling in anticipation.  I join in.  Blue lights grow bright to illuminate that signature O.  Mikael Akerfeldt walks onto the stage.  Metal ensues.

Opeth starts with their progressive rock from Heritage, Akerfeldt singing God is Dead!—the chorus from “The Devil’s Orchard.”  Between songs, Akerfeldt comments that he loves Denver because the thin air makes him feel drunk without having a single beer.  Someone from the crowd yells, play some fucking metal!  “Patience,” Akerfeldt replies. “Or I’ll play the song ‘Patience.’”

Soon we are all rewarded for our patience, and the intro to “Demon of the Fall” begins.  Angry growling death metal ensues.

Slamming my head forward with everyone else, punching the air above me with the traditional devil horns, I realize there’s another important characteristic to metal—solidarity.

Metal is about getting lost in the futile anger, disappointment and frustration of life, drowning out your problems for three hours.  Finding absolution, and knowing it’s only temporary.  Then slamming your head even harder, growling with everyone around you to each line of the song as your throat blisters and you start to gargle on your own blood.

Young or old.  Bald or hair hanging below your ass.  Straight or gay.  During a metal concert, these trite distinctions just don’t matter.

Outside of a concert, when people find out I’m gay, they usually respond with, “you don’t act like it.”

Which is true:  I don’t watch musicals.  I loathe the music of Lady Gaga.  I was dragged into a Banana Republic once.  I wanted to light the entire building on fire.

I do own about a hundred band t-shirts—from Dead Can Dance to Agalloch to Velvet Acid Christ to Opeth.  I drive a Dodge Ram (the lesbo-mobile, it’s been fondly called).  I’m not offended (nor do I care) when someone around me uses the word gay to describe something stupid.  And I fucking love metal.

Most of the music I hear in gay bars and on the radio lacks depth.  Feels synthesized and forced.  The songs have shitty lyrics.  In a word—kitsch.

Nietzsche wrote that art made for the masses is valueless.  Conversely, he added, music made for the sake of making music “at every moment make[s] life worth living at all, and prompt[s] the desire to live in order to experience the next moment.”

The concert ends with “The Grand Conjuration.”  Opeth takes a few bows before leaving the stage.  My shirt is plastered to my back with sweat.  A woman I’ve never met before smiles, “that was fucking awesome!”  Adrenaline still saturating my veins, I can barely stand still as I wait in line to buy (yet another) t-shirt.  A guy in his fifties with a big, gray bushy beard and a tie-dye t-shirt stands next to me.  Words like concert, kick-ass, epic, intense, and fucking are being thrown around—though not in that order.

And this moment is about sharing the experience of being pummeled by head-stomping riffs, double bass fills, and Akerfeldt’s demon-like growls.  It’s about no one giving a shit I’m gay.

The sidewalk carries me away.  Denver’s Fillmore Theater is swallowed up behind me.  The traffic on Colfax Avenue saturates my senses.

I stick the earbuds back in.  Take my time as I walk back to my truck, finishing “Black Rose Immortal.”  Those pesky problems I forgot about are still lurking at the periphery, waiting patiently to rise blindingly with the sun.

But the rest of the night belongs to the fans.  This moment belongs to metal.