December 10, 2005

Concert Review: 12/09/05: Depeche Mode, Touring The Angel

I had planned to muse on this review for a few days, but I can’t. My head is swimming with thoughts about the Depeche Mode show I saw last night in Fairfax. This was my first Depeche show and I feel awash in the afterglow…. ummmmmmm.

DM opened with a new song “A Pain That I’m Used To” that sort of grew in stature because of the performance. Dave pranced out (to deafening screams) in a great black suit- very natty! He had on these really good heeled boots that were probably what allowed to him make his ASS the star of the evening. This tour should have been called Touring Dave’s Ass, not Touring The Angel. The clothes, as you can imagine, didn’t last long – he started shedding pieces pretty quickly and most of the show was his naked chest and some very fitted black pants.

They followed that with a performance of “John The Revelator” that was very good, but misplaced. I think they should have actually done this one during an encore and really milked the drama of it. It’s made for live performance, with the call-and-response chorus (which DM did not take advantage of for this song). It was great, but too soon in the show. Maybe next time they will make it more of a highlight.

They did a lot of songs from Violator, which they clearly realize is like their “legacy” album. Dave has incredible energy on stage, constantly running or dancing or shimmying. He’s got a lot of Mick Jagger in him – he’s a strutter and I was concerned that he would be molested whenever he went out on to the little platform where fans surrounded him. He was constantly thrusting his cock at them – very funny.

I had been thinking, since I first heard it, that recent single “Precious” is perhaps one of their top 5 or top 10 classics. It’s so melancholy and loving. The arrangement for the live show was like a remix, with more beat and guitar. It sacrificed a bit of the studio version’s… silvery-ness…but Dave hit all the notes and the emotion was still there. I just LOVE LOVE LOVE the lyrics to this song. Again, I think they maybe could’ve played this later in the show, but it reminded me that this song has to be in the very top of my 2005 fave list.

The set was kind of a busy affair with spaceshippy keyboard consoles and a huge orb that had words run across it on LED (see belwo). I kept expecting someone to like… pop out of it or something? It was odd. The lighting was terrific though, with the exception of these weird lights – I called them the ballad lights - that would come down every so often. They were like hanging lamps you’d see in a gym or maybe even an Outback Steakhouse! Most hung still but one was sort of rickety and swung around a bit. It just looked cheap! Annie Lennox had this same idea on her solo tour, but she used a simple string of white Christmas lights and it worked better.

“Enjoy The Silence” was epic- it also had the best visuals of the night, with a stick figure cartoon of Dave (complete with schnozz, crown and folding chair; see pic above). That was, in fact, the first clue of what the song would be and the crowd clearly got it. This song really is one of the defining songs of the 1990’s, so it was thrilling too see them perform it in a way that did it justice and gave it firther life.

“World In My Eyes” - Jesus God! Wait till they release the DVD! This was presented as the Sex Song with the whole thrust (heh) of the performance being Dave’s body. The cameras never strayed above the neck for this one, with close-ups of his nipples, naked torso and ass. His dancing was truly stipper-esque and the crowd went insane. How does he have that body at his age, after all he drugs he’s imbibed? I’m really surprised no one tried to rip his pants off. One of my trolls said that he could probably have anyone in that room, male or female, at that moment and she was probably right. The best bit of this was actually toward the end of the song when he went to center stage (backlit), bent over forward, with his legs crossed, and did this swanlike arm fluttering as he rose – sort of a cross between a curtsy and a ballet move. It was extremely feminine and I think that is his power: he gives you a version of sexuality that you are not used to seeing in men, where he makes himself - with no inhibition - into a sex object. Strangely, I got my first goose bumps of the night from this performance, I guess because it was so extraordinary. Or that I want to be fucked by Dave Gahan? You decide, trolls!

On another song, while we’re on it, maybe “I Feel You”, Dave blew a kiss at the end that just topped the whole performance like a cherry. It was a very quick gesture. The camera frequently caught him with a big grin - he has a very nice smile. I think at this point in time people just love him like a favored family member. I know that I admire him for being better than ever after a period of being a complete fuckup druggie. He’s a walking redemption song and such a STAR. – so in-the-moment and giving all of his energy and soul. Why doesn’t the whole world see this? I guess they’d rawwwther focus on that whiny bitch-boy Chris Martin (God bless ‘im).

“I Feel You” was the highlight of the show, the crest, for me. This has never been a song I felt any connection with, but it had the most amazing staging of the night, with the appearance of lights that look liked little fireworks, big blasts of white light and general guitar mayhem. It was surely as hard as any Metallica performance, but they maintained the melody. Loved the audience's participation on this is the dawning of our love. Spine-tingling!

Martin Gore. Now let’s talk about Martin. What a kook! For much of the show he worked a black-feathered helmet hat – sort of like a feathered Mohawk, but the hat looked stupid and uncomfortable because it had a chinstrap and covered his ears. He looked sort of Norma Desmond-like on the screen, with his Kohl lined deep-set eyes, so it was a relief when he took the hat off later. His solo performances were some of the highlights; notably a great version of a personal favorite “Home” (only track from Ultra), replete with major notes at the end, which I can imitate very well if I rattle my throat while I sing them. He also did a solo version of our college fave “Somebody” (I said to Maria, “20 years later and we’re still alone!”). I should also mention that Martin had on some nice black feathered wings throughout the show. When we were coming in, I saw a goth girl who had them on too. I want them for New Year’s Eve…very Angel of Death!

Geeky fan dislikes? I feel meh about a few of the new songs they played, like “I Want It All” (what does the end of that song remind me of? It is blatantly ripped from an oldie) or “Damaged People.” I would’ve preferred an oldie like “Blasphemous Rumours” or even “Freelove.” They ignored “Nothing’s Impossible” from the new CD, which is one of the better songs on that record (and one of the most old-school electronic).

The encore had classics “Just Can’t Get Enough” and “Everything Counts” which the audience participated in (the latter has new meaning to me as an adult, in the Bush era). These songs were all about the communal power of a live show, where everyone sings together and does hand gestures, etc. The penultimate song was one of my favorites, “Never Let Me Down Again,” and the performance was terrific – replete with the major arm waving I think they do at each concert. You could tell that Dave was finally getting tired, but it reminded me that he could have milked the audience more than he did. All DM has to do is go out and let the audience sing every song, but they do give much more than that.

The closer was Martin and Dave out on the little platform (a la Bono and Edge?) doing a sort of unplugged version “Goodnight Lovers,” the only song present from Exciter. I never would’ve thought of, but was lovely with the “souls sisters and soul brothers” chorus. A real lullaby.

If this show comes your way, it is worth every fucking penny. Give to Depeche Mode and give generously. I want them to be even richer than they are now. They deserve it.

FREEBIES: Watch some of the
rehearsals for this tour. Also check out the EPK (elec. press kit) for their new CD, Playing The Angel.


V said...

I loved your review of the show! I do hope they put this out on DVD. Even release a live CD of it.

I was too a little upset that they left out "Nothings Impossible" from the set. And I'm glad we got the set where Martin does "Somebody" on other sets, they switch it with "A Question of Lust" which would have been nice too.. but oh well.

babs said...

I did too. Now I want to go see them and they've already been to Phx. I could've gone, in theory, but was overwhelmed with everything else. Dogwalking, studies, grading, etc. "Somebody" was such a college song.

I think I'll break out my mix of dm. I made in college.


V said...

We ought to trade mixes. That would be interesting.

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

Thanks for the wonderful writeup! I am now wishing that I had been there!

babs said...

exchanging mixes would be interesting. Mine's on tape which shows my age. I should really re-do a DM mix as there are ones I would include now that I wouldn't have before. Question of Lust or TIme, I forget which.

V said...

Barbara - y'know I used to live in Phoenix. By PV Mall. :)

All my DM mixes are on tape as well. Some go way back - I think I have one remaining that I did back in 86. I had just seen them at the Black Celebration tour and wanted a similar mix of it.