Depeche Mode at Madison Square Garden, NYC
Madison Square Garden
New York, New York
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Depeche Mode are survivors. The band has been through many incarnations. Founded in 1979 as French Look by Vince Clarke with Martin Gore, the band rechristened itself as Composition of Sound when Andrew Fletcher signed on, and finally as Depeche Mode in 1980 when Dave Gahan joined. Although the band's 1981 debut, Speak and Spell (Sire), became a major hit, propelled by the immensely danceable "Just Can't Get Enough," Clarke left the lineup soon after the album's release, first to form Yaz and finally Erasure. In his place Gahan, Gore and Fletcher recruited keyboardist Alan Wilde.
As alternative rock became more and more popular, Depeche Mode was recognized as one of the genre's most successful acts. The climb to the top was not without its bumps and difficulties. At the peak of their success, the group began to unravel; first Wilder exited in 1995, and then Gahan made a failed attempt at suicide and later entered a rehabilitation clinic to battle heroin addiction. In 1999 following the release of their greatest hits collection The Singles 86>98 (Reprise, 1998), Depeche Mode toured and played 64 shows in 18 countries for over one million fans. Once the tour was completed, each member took time off, and the band would not regroup for another three years. In early 2009, Depeche Mode released Sounds of the Universe (Mute/Capitol/Virgin) to rave reviews. The ensuing tour has not been without its trials and tribulations. The band had to cancel the early dates of the Tour of the Universe when Gahan required surgery to remove a malignant tumor in his bladder.
Advance word was, as Depeche Mode made their way to New York, that Gahan had made a full recovery and that the band was in fine form. With a musical canon featuring "People Are People," the previously mentioned "Just Can't Get Enough," "Blasphemous Rumours," "Barrel Of A Gun," "Everything Counts," and "A Photograph of You," the band's place in the development of modern popular music and its counter-movements is firmly in place. Amazingly, none of these songs was performed at this concert at Madison Square Garden.
Even without the familiar repertory the set-list was strong enough to ensure hardcore Depeche Mode fans would leave the arena smiling. Fletcher on keys, Gore on guitar and the very enthusiastic Gahan on vocals (resplendent in a black vest, black slacks and a bare chestwho wiggled, pranced, twirled his mike and blew kisses to the crowdalong with drummer Christian Eigner and keyboardist Peter Gordeno opened with new songs conveying the "classic" Depeche Mode feel: "In Chains," "Wrong" and "Hole to Feed" (each of which seem to be built on tried and true melodies like those that propelled the band to its original greatness) from the Sounds of the Universe CD. The band then segued into "Walking In My Shoes," "It's No Good" (featuring a new edgy, modern guitar break) and "A Question of Time."
Performing in front of a huge video monitor that was constantly filled by morphing images that were both arresting and disturbing, the band then moved on to "Precious," Gore's vocal turn on "Jezebel," "Policy Of Truth," the beautiful ballad "I Feel You," the rousing "Enjoy the Silence" (which now features a funky interlude), and "Never Let Me Down Again."
Encores included Gahan's sultry and boiling version of "Stripped," the synthesizer-driven tale of bondage and lust"Master and Servant," "Strangelove" (which was sung in front of what can be best described as a soft-core porn video) and "Personal Jesus." The evening ended with a stark, stripped-down version of "Waiting for the Night," sung by both Gore and Gahan at the edge of a catwalk.