Depeche Mode

Ak-Chin Pavilion, Phoenix, USA - 27 September 2017

"Depeche Mode are the Rolling Stones of the eighties"

Watching the 55-year-old Dave Gahan, strutting about the stage and swinging the mic stand like it was a bastard-sword, I couldn't help but be reminded of Mick Jagger. And I'm gradually coming round to the belief that Depeche Mode are the Rolling Stones of the eighties. While they may not have been as controversial as the Stones - no stories involving Mars Bars [eh?! - Ed], for instance - they've withstood their share of substance abuse issues, and come out the other side to become a beloved venerable and apparently immortal institution, spanning the generations.

That much was clear from the show at the Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix, where the audience covered as many decades as I've seen at any concert. We ended up chatting before the show to a family (the father initially wondered what "VNV" stood for on my T-shirt...), who proudly informed us their son was conceived after a previous DM show, 19 years earlier. The son, standing nearby, seemed rather less proud, but that he was there does indicate the broad appeal of the band these days. I think the youngest attendee we saw was the moppet in the row in front of us, who can only have been about six, and who crashed out totally about a third of the way through. $100 well spent there, Mom...

The Pavilion holds about 20,000 people in total. A little less than half of those sit under the roofed section, with the balance on a large lawn section at the back. The roof which is open on the sides and has giant fans - blades maybe 10-12 feet in radius to circulate the air. That's an essential in Phoenix for the summer, when temperatures can approach 50C. But fortunately, the fever had broken on this night, and it was pleasant enough for us to walk the mile for so from home - probably the first time ever we've walked to a stadium concert! I will confess, this was the first time I had heard anything from the new album, Spirit. And... Well, we'll see what tracks manage to stand the test of time.

The band started with Going Backwards, one of those songs clearly making a point - though precisely what is likely open to listener interpretation, It's an approach I do prefer to obvious "statement songs", although is perhaps why there was a bizarre claim earlier this year that Depeche Mode were "the official band of the alt-right." Wot, mate? Do you even know DM? The audience greeted these with moderate enthusiasm for now: it was clear they were here for the greatest hits, and there was no shortage of those.

Depeche Mode London Stadium 2017      Depeche Mode London Stadium 2017   Depeche Mode London Stadium 2017

As well as the band, there were three large projection screens, one to each side and one behind, projecting a mix of visuals and videos. Some of these were impressive, to the point of entirely taking your attention away from the live component: In Your Room was accompanied by an interpretive dance duet, through and around an apartment - it was much better than that sounds(!), and really very poignant. Nice to see Martin Gore getting his moments, first with A Question of Lust and then Somebody. The latter is one of the most emotional of all Depeche Mode songs, all raw emotion and the simplistic staging here allowed that to shine through.

But, as ever, this was the Dave Gahan show. While he might not be one for chit-chat with the audience, he does command the stage with the Jagger-like approach mentioned earlier. Neither age nor near-death experiences have slowed him down, and I can see him carrying on for another couple of decades.

The final hour was a near-continuous procession of classics, a reminder of how many gems DM have created since 1980. A slamming double-bill of Enjoy The Silence and Never Let Me Down Again finished the main set, and was likely the highlight for me, personally. There was then barely a pause before moving onto the five song encore, which finished with Personal Jesus. About the only weak link was a surprisingly loose cover of David Bowie's Heroes, which didn't impress me as much as I expected when I heard the opening notes. (It is a song with historical significance for the band: it's the one Dave Gahan sang at a scout hut jam session back in 1980, which first drew him to the attention of Vince Clarke).

But all told, this was a very solid two hours and fifteen minutes, from a band who have not just survived for almost forty years, but adapted and evolved as time has passed. It has been a long journey, with its ups and downs. On the basis of tonight's show, it clearly isn't over yet.

Set List: Going Backwards, So Much Love, Barrel of a Gun, A Pain That I'm Used To, Corrupt, In Your Room, World in My Eyes, Cover Me, A Question of Lust, Home, Poison Heart, Where's the Revolution, Wrong, Everything Counts, Stripped, Enjoy the Silence, Never Let Me Down Again Encore: Somebody, Walking in My Shoes, Heroes, I Feel You, Personal Jesus

Review: Jim McLennan
Photos: Yuko Iwatani
(from the London Stadium show 3 June 2017)

See also:
Depeche Mode - Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany - 22 June 2017