Black Celebration

Club Noir, London - 25 January, 2001

[Club Noir flyer]

"An unexpected surprise"

I was surfing the net at lunchtime when I came across the Flag Promotions website and immediately remembered, it being a Thursday, that their Club Noir was on. What's more, tonight was a Depeche Mode special. So after catching a film and a bite to eat we set off for Gossips in the heart of London's Soho. What I hadn't realised (but was obvious from the equipment occupying the small dancefloor) was that there would be a live set also. Tonight it was, appropriately enough, a Depeche Mode cover band, formerly know as D'peche Mode (bad), but as from tonight known as Black Celebration (much better). Although I'm not a fan of cover bands in general this was still an unexpected surprise. Question was would it be a pleasant one?

Kicking off with A Question of Time, Black Celebration immediately drew those dressed in black to the edge of the dancefloor. When World in my Eyes came in my attention focused, even though I remained in my chair nursing a bottle of alcohol. As the band played on I realised that, bar the cheap orchestral 'stabs', this was actually rather good. It's No Good was next on the set list and, by some weird synchronicity, the DM video (that was showing on the club's TV screens scattered around the venue) came on at the same time - producing a very peculiar effect. You could see Depeche Mode on the screens and you could hear the song they were playing, only it sounded different. Different, but respectable. The beefy bassline was especially good and the vocals were strong and convincing. By now, I'd gotten up to see what these guys looked like but it was difficult seeing past the DM fans crowded around the dancefloor, so I returned to my seat.

A song vying for my all-time favourite DM single, Stripped, followed. It started with what sounded like a sample of the car engine intro from the actual song but nose-dived as soon as an incredibly weedy xylophone sound began in place of the much more powerful original. It was the same for most of the other synth noises too and the harsh but ineffective snare drum, but again the vocals remained a high point. By the time of the fifth song, Useless, it was rapidly approaching midnight and that meant a mad dash for the last train home. As we pushed our way through the audience, I'd heard enough to realise that like Stripped before it, Useless had lost all the 'oomph' of the original. Even so, overall, it wasn't an unpleasant experience and actually pretty good - as far as cover bands go. I'm sure Black Celebration won't have a problem finding more opportunities to pay homage to their heroes. They've certainly got some talent, but that would surely be put to better use exploring their own musical ideas - provided it wasn't yet another DM synth pop clone that is! The only other problem with us having to leave early was not knowing if I'd been given the winning lottery ticket that would enable the holder to claim a bunch of promo Depeche Mode CDs. Oh well, only three months until the new album, Exciter, comes out. I guess I can wait until then...

Rob Dyer