Legendary Depeche Mode Hasn’t Lost Its Groove | Electropopsters Electrify 12,500 At Bell Centre

July, 26, 2009 / 0 comments

By Mark Lepage ~

By all rights, a name as fashion-specific as Depeche Mode’s should have been lethal. It should have doomed this band to a quick Vogue moment, followed by the Sally Ann bin of pop trend. But no.

Instead, an electropop band thirty years into a career drew a five-figure crowd into a perpetual Standing O at the Bell Centre, performing as though they were hitting their peak before your eyes.

Too many years ago to admit to, I recall the moment in a Depeche Mode concert at the Forum when whatever-thousand pairs of arms rose in unison clapping overhead to ‘Never Let Me Down’.

It was a revelation then, of the popularity and pervasive influence of that electropop band your girlfriend liked. Last night would be confirmation of their endurance.

To begin with, 12,500 fans were ready for the new material. As the band powered up the retina-scorching rear video wall and sent out the first synth waves of ‘In Chains’, the crowd rose. A lean Dave Gahan projected the moody vocal, Martin Gore leaving the keyboard banks to Andrew Fletcher and the other guy to play guitar. The booming, angular ‘Wrong’ led to the urban tribalism of ‘Hole To Feed’, live drums over the top of the machines as Gahan shimmied and strutted through his clubland Rod Stewart moves. The crowd remained standing throughout.

In an interview in New York last winter, Gore and Fletcher had, in their modest way, insisted that Depeche Mode was a revitlaized band heading into its fourth decade. And the mood here was triumphant, and emphatically live. The themes – temptation, lust, resentment, the important loneliness of Me Me Me – remain as eternal as a mirrorball and an overpriced club drink, but some new voltage was running through this.

Gahan is still the living element, the lens that focuses the kink of the material. Spinning around, shirtless in a vest, he’s the disco Elvis. Gore is the kink itself, the lyric voice of deathless post-adolescent angst, and in his Ace Frehley tinfoil suit, playing a series of outlandish guitars, he took a greater stagefront role than ever. After a solo vocal in Little Soul had fans screaming, it seemed his eyeliner might run with gratitude.

So the fans loved the new summer looks. But let’s go vintage for late July.

‘Policy Of Truth’ galvanized the crowd with its chunky rhythms – again, incredible audience recognition factor – before the shuddering beat and grind of ‘I Feel You’ took the band and the evening to another level.

With Gore leaning over his guitar and a Mars-landing series of lighting effects, this was Depeche Mode as an electropop Zep. The audience took half the vocals in ‘Enjoy The Silence’, with Gahan beaming and prancing up the catwalk while the band took the song into an extended funkytown coda. Cue the guitar and the stomp of ‘Never Let Me Down’. The place went off, and not in nostalgia for a Forum concert.

This tour has/will visit stadiums, and Depeche Mode has the formula right: the electropop machines remain massive, but the ghost in them is a sweaty, human one.

Peter, Bjorn & John opened with a set climaxing with ‘Young Folks’, and if you can’t namecheck it, you know it as the whistle song – the blithe and maddeningly catchy melody the Swedish trio pulled out of the ether-bank of tunes and downloaded into the universal human memory rotation. Last night, one of the PB&Js vaulted the crowd barricade during the hit, sealing their own memorable moment.

Source: The Gazette