Depeche Mode at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 9/18/2013

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.

"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.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar