If you saw Lisa Gerrard, without knowing who she was, it’d be practically impossible to tell that she is half of noted Goth duo, Dead Can Dance. There is no black clothing, no black hair, no trace of black eyeliner — just long, blonde hair pulled back, naturally peachy toned skin and elegant off the shoulder, satin-textured floor length gowns. But though she may have forsaken Goth culture in regard to her looks, there were plenty of homages to her musical past during her performance at the NY Society for Ethical Culture last Wednesday night.

The backdrop was draped in huge sheets of alternating black and white fabric, which spilled onto the stage. The lighting was dramatic, often lighting just her silhouette, or filling the room with just one color. And, the show, though mostly comprised of her solo material, never strayed far from where she started. Without so much as a word, Gerrard launched full-force into a 20-song set complete with a costume change and not one, but two encores.

Somehow, it was during the encores that her voice came through the brightest. For her primary set, she was accompanied by long time collaborator John Bonner on keyboards, Michael Edwards on Piano, and two men “behind the scenes” on the various programmed components. This four-man entourage was necessary to create the lush, detailed atmospheres that have become such a crucial part of Gerrard’s career, but when she returned for the encores without them, there was nothing to distract the ears from her remarkable voice.

When Gerrard is singing, it sounds like we can understand what she’s saying, even we can’t (which is a considerable part of the time, as she often sings in different languages or a sort of slowed-down scat). Each syllable, each utterance has such force behind it that we are compelled to comprehend it. And her deep, resonate voice was only further empowered by the smart venue choice of the Church-like NYSEC.

The encore also provided one of the biggest highlights in terms of song selection, as she poured into “The Wind That Shakes The Barley,” a classic ballad written from the perspective of a young rebel who is about to take part in the 1798 rebellion in Ireland. Other impressive pieces included “The Sea Whisperer,” from her last solo album, The Silver Tree, and “Now We Are Free,” which she wrote with Hans Zimmer for Academy Award Winning flick, Gladiator.

Gerrard may no longer look the part, but her audience doesn’t either. After she finished, she was met with a standing ovation and roaring applause from a crowd of after-work Manhattanites in suits and slacks. Not what you’d expect — but neither is she.

Lisa Gerrard: “The Sea Whisperer” (download)
Lisa Gerrard/Hans Zimmer: “Now We Are Free” (download)
Dead Can Dance: “Wind That Shakes The Barley” (download)

Lisa Gerrard Official Site
Lisa Gerrard on MySpace

Image courtesy of flickr user aphrodite-in-nyc