Pavilion, Phoenix, USA - 27 September 2017
Mode are the Rolling Stones of the eighties"
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.
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
Photos: Yuko Iwatani (from the London
Stadium show 3 June 2017)
Mode - Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany - 22 June 2017