Depeche Mode Plays Intimate Show At Borgata In Atlantic City

August, 2, 2009 / 0 comments

By Bill Canacci ~

For almost 30 years, Depeche Mode has been making music for the masses – and if Saturday’s intimate concert at the Borgata in Atlantic City is any indication, the English synth-rockers show no signs of slowing down.

The band is touring in support of its 12th studio album, ‘Sounds Of The Universe’, which takes a few listens to appreciate. While not the band’s finest effort, sounds contains several strong tracks that reflect the group’s approach to music: a multilayered mix of guitars, drums and keyboards full of danceable beats and intense themes about love and relationships.

The group opened with ‘In Chains’ from the new record. Lead singer Dave Gahan, who in May went to the hospital after a bout of gastroenteritis and on July 9 suffered a calf muscle tear while performing in Bilbao, Spain, looked and sounded good. Dressed in black, he was a nice complement to Martin Gore, who wore a sparkling silver leather suit. Keyboard player Andy Fletcher also was in black, and stayed mostly in the background throughout the night. Joining the group on stage was fantastic keyboard player Peter Gordeno and drummer Christian Eigner.

The angry ‘Wrong’, the lead single from ‘Sounds’, was far less annoying live than it is on the album. It went over well, but the first real cheers of the night came for ‘Walking In My Shoes’, which sounded just as good, if not better, than when it was released in 1993.

‘A Question Of Time’ from ‘Black Celebration’ was fun, but there was not a lot of movement in the general admission, standing-only crowd. That’s probably because the fans were packed like sardines – and it was pretty hot. Dancing or jumping around was just not an option.

‘Precious’ from 2005’s ‘Playing The Angel’, one of the best songs Martin Gore has ever written, seemed more mid-tempo than the album version. While the song was performed, words from “I Have Learned So Much” by American poet Daniel Ladinsky appeared on the video screen behind the band.

Fans were treated to ‘Fly On The Windscreen’, which had not been performed live since the ‘Songs Of Faith And Devotion’ tour in 1993.

The rocker ‘I Feel You’ got heads bopping, and the band’s biggest song, ‘Enjoy the Silence’, featured a video screen background of the band wearing space suits. Gore’s guitar playing is never discussed much, but he was impressive here. Like his songs, his playing – even in a fun, dance number – conveys real emotion.

The first part of the show ended with probably the band’s most beloved hit, ‘Never Let Me Down Again’, with the shirtless Gahan leading the crowd in the now-classic hand waving.

The band returned to play the powerful ‘Stripped’ and the pulsating ‘Personal Jesus’ (which thanks to drummer Eigner gets better and better), but fans were disappointed that ‘Master and Servant’, ‘Strangelove’ and ‘Waiting For The Night’ were left off the setlist. Perhaps the band decided that because of the intimacy of the show, they did not have to play so long. It’s a good bet those songs will be heard on Monday, Aug. 3, and Tuesday, Aug. 4, as the band plays at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Regardless of the heat and the song selection, there is no question the approximately 2,500 people in attendance enjoyed themselves at the Borgata. Most fans were in their 30s and 40s, people who have grown up with the group’s music. But from time to time, a few 20somethings and teens could be seen.

In the mid- to late 1980s, fans at Depeche Mode concerts were, for the most part, stylish and beautiful. That may not be the case anymore, but the connection between the fans and the band is as strong as ever.

Opening for Depeche Mode were Swedish rockers Peter, Bjorn and John, who are probably best known for their song ‘Young Folks’, sometimes called “the whistling song.” Those who only know that club-friendly track would be surprised at how much of a rock band this three-piece is, led by singer/guitarist/keyboard player Peter Moren. But despite his theatrics and personality, and the group’s best efforts, the band never energized the crowd.

Gore’s solo spot while Gahan takes a mini-break is always a highlight, although he almost succeeded in lulling the crowd to sleep with ‘Jezebel’ from the new album. But the crowd perked up and sang every word of his next song, the beautiful ‘A Question Of Lust’.