Depeche Mode at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 9/18/2013
Photos by Groovehouse
Depeche Mode Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion September 18, 2013
People talk about how improbable it is that Keith Richards is still alive to tour with the Rolling Stones, but for a time there in the mid-'90s, it seemed equally unlikely Depeche Mode would ever hit the road again. Singer Dave Gahan suffered a heart attack (in 1993), attempted suicide, and finally had to be revived by paramedics following a heroin overdose in 1996. Richards may have been an addict longer, but to my knowledge he has never had to be brought back from the dead.
Of late, DM has settled into a familiar cycle, releasing new albums every few years and embarking on lucrative tours. Of course, as with most bands whose peak years are well behind them (and whether they like it or not), Mode is largely a nostalgia act. Folks who abandoned the group circa Ultra may not even be able to name their recent efforts (hint: the latest is the Violator-ish Delta Machine). But really, who cares? None of that matters much when you're arguably the greatest electronic band of all time, having influenced everyone from a-ha to Rammstein.
Besides all that, Gahan's been clean for quite some time now. And as the band's performance last night made clear, he's back at the top of his game. putting on a sinewy, animated performance that was in diametric opposition to a certain other lead singer's as he and fellow DM lifers Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher held a steamy CWMP crowd in the palms of their black-lacquered hands.
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"Welcome to My World" opened the show, with Gahan, Gore, and Fletcher emerging in full leather/vinyl/something-shiny-and-probably-really-freaking-hot regalia. The crowd's enthusiasm was most likely in response to the crowd's appearance and not, you know, any familiarity with this particular Delta Machine cut. This was followed by "Angel" from the same album, following its track order, and might have led some to worry that DM was about to play the album in its entirety. Fortunately Gahan removed his jacket at this point, distracting everyone.
Joining the band onstage were keyboardist Peter Gordeno and drummer Christian Eigner. Three keyboardists strikes me as a bit excessive, even as the conspiracy theorist in me wondered if Fletcher wasn't just playing GTA V the whole time.
My personal high point may have been the third song, "Walking In My Shoes" from the (in my mind, anyway) unjustly unappreciated Songs of Faith and Devotion. More to the point, from that song on, the crowd was Gahan's. As he's become more ... "seasoned," he's abandoned some of his goofier stage antics (and adopted others, specifically some David Coverdale-ish moves with the mike stand), but he engages his audience like few other front men I've seen.
And those abs! Mercy.
Next up was "Precious," their biggest single from 2005's Playing the Angel. It was, however, accompanied by videos of cute doggies doing, well, cute dog things. How very precious indeed. Crowd pleasers "Black Celebration" and "Policy of Truth" followed, reminding us how extensive DM's catalog really is. "BC" was one of three cuts played off that eponymous album, with only one song in the set predating it (more on that later). Some Great Reward was ignored entirely, even though it contains at least four songs that would've brought roars of approval from the crowd.
Well, most of them. I really can't stand "Somebody."
Review continues on the next page.
At the halfway point came the Martin Gore Acoustic Showcase, or as I call it, the Mass Pavilion Restroom Exodus. I felt kind of bad seeing the departure during "The Child Inside" and "But Not Tonight," but as DM's main songwriter for the better part of 30 years, Gore can sob himself to sleep on his giant, Scrooge McDuck pile of money.
Two more Delta Machine cuts ("Heaven," "Soothe My Soul") came next, and then "A Pain That I'm Used To" from PtA. Give the band credit, they could easily slog their way across the northern hemisphere every four or five years and play a greatest-hits show and make even more bazillions of dollars, but they don't. I admit, I haven't listened extensively to their latest, but I wish "Pain" had struck more of a chord, as it's one of the group's strongest songs in years.
"Heaven" was also accompanied by the music video for the song, which is just lazy. Like, Toby Keith lazy.
Closing out the set was the band's equivalent of a Mortal Kombat chain combo attack: Celebration's "A Question of Time," "Enjoy the Silence," and "Personal Jesus." The two Violator cuts may be a little hoary, but still resonate. However, as a friend of mine commented about "Question," maybe it's time to retire the songs about 15-year-old girls, especially when you're old enough to be their grandfather (see also: "Christine Sixteen").
The encore (do bands ever do unplanned encores anymore?) started off with "Home" (acoustic Gore again) and a disappointingly subdued "Halo" (fuck a "Goldfrapp remix"). "Just Can't Get Enough" was next, thankfully the only throwback to the band's 'deet-doot-deet' early-'80s work, and bless Gahan's heart for acting like he doesn't hate this song with the fire of a thousand suns.
Closing out the show: "I Feel You" and "Never Let Me Down Again," the greatest song about cars and trousers ever written. As has been the case since 101, a now thoroughly drenched Gahan led the crowd in waving their arms along to the song. It wasn't quite ""Radio Ga Ga," but really, nobody seemed to mind.
Jesus Bias: I wasn't an early adopter, but SoFaD and Violator are still in semi-regular rotation.
The Crowd: Sweaty Gen X-ers and 9-to-5 types who otherwise would've dyed their hair black for the week.
Overheard In The Crowd: [of Gahan] "He looks kind of like John Waters."
Random Notebook Dump: "He says 'Thank you, thank you very mooch,' just like in 101!"
Set list and more photos on the next page.
Welcome to My World Angel Walking In My Shoes Precious Black Celebration Policy of Truth Should Be Higher Barrel of a Gun The Child Inside But Not Tonight Heaven Soothe My Soul A Pain That I'm Used To A Question of Time Enjoy the Silence Personal Jesus
Home Halo Just Can't Get Enough I Feel You Never Let Me Down Again
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