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POP MUSIC REVIEW

The Spirit Moves in Different Ways for Dead Can Dance

August 13, 1996|STEVE HOCHMAN

A curious conflict between sacred and secular broke out during a between-song lull in the Universal Amphitheatre concert by the medieval/world-music outfit Dead Can Dance on Sunday. A few people in the packed but hushed audience started outbursts of hoots, whistles and shouts of "I love you" to group principals Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry.

That, though, elicited outright hostility from several others, who yelled "shut up" at the revelers, angry that the catcalls had broken the mood of what, to them, was a very spiritual occasion.

Gerrard and Perry represent the schism themselves. She, clad in a white, flowing robe and standing behind a velvet-wrapped stand supporting her hammered dulcimer, projected the air of a mystic priestess, magnifying the transportational effect of her vocal command and unique blend of medieval and Islamic chant and Balkan twists. Perry, in contrast, is a regular guy in a white shirt and black jeans, and while his rich howl is a fine instrument, it's earthbound rather than heaven-born.

The earthly complement was heightened Sunday by the addition of several percussionists to the backing band, not only for the Afro-Brazilian and South American tribal sounds from the new "Spiritchaser" album but also to add dimension to the older material.

That helps keep Dead Can Dance apart from the pack, a tough challenge today with the explosion of spiritual-oriented global hybrids from rediscovered medieval abbess Hildegard Von Bingen to hot Pakistani star Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Perhaps the strongest proof of spiritual powers is the miracle of Perry and Gerrard putting all that together without making a pretentious mess.

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