(This article originally appeared on AOL CityGuide in 2005.)
There’s simply no better American city in which to see Depeche Mode than Los Angeles. There are some that come in a close second — New York and Chicago come to mind — but SoCal has long proven a fan stronghold, even before the band’s landmark 1988 sold-out Rose Bowl concert or record-setting attendance for an autograph signing (15,000 “Moders” at the Beverly Hills Wherehouse). Nearly two decades after the band’s largest success, loyal fans gobbled up tickets to both Staples Center shows within minutes of the onsale, causing eBay prices to soar upwards of $600 for floor seats. Any Moder in attendance will tell you that the price was worth every last cent.
That said, the show got off to a rocky start, with the band choosing two songs from its less-than-stellar latest effort, Playing the Angel, as openers. Frontman Dave Gahan, looking significantly ripped and healthier than when he toured four years ago, jumped right into his well-worn stage antics, which he pulled off much better this go-round than when he was a scrawny, post-rehab scarecrow.
|A Pain That I’m Used To|
|John the Revelator|
|A Question of Time|
|Policy of Truth|
|Walking in My Shoes|
|I Want It All|
|The Sinner in Me|
|I Feel You|
|Behind the Wheel|
|World in My Eyes|
|Enjoy the Silence|
|Just Can’t Get Enough|
|Never Let Me Down Again|
Gahan has always received much-deserved credit for inciting the audience’s fervor — mainly the female contingent — and he hasn’t lost his touch, orchestrating audience sing-alongs and arm-waving as deftly as if it were still the band’s heyday. Gone is the religious posturing Gahan adopted back when “Personal Jesus” first hit the airwaves, but the frontman still relies heavily on his trademark hip swivels and gyroscopic spins with the mic stand. By “A Question of Time,” he’d begun disrobing (much to the pleasure of the crowd), which left him bare-chested by song 13 of the 22-song setlist.
The concert gained footing when the tried and true DM hits made an appearance, most notably those from the better-known albums Violator (“World in My Eyes,” “Enjoy the Silence”) and Songs of Faith and Devotion (“I Feel You,” “Walking in My Shoes”). At such times, the audience’s vocals threatened to drown out Dave’s, a feat the lead singer often leveraged to great effect by halting the music to let fans chant en masse. Anton Corbijn’s video projections, which have become essential show elements, stoked excitement further with close-ups of band members (natch), voyeuristic imagery and now-familiar Mode iconography, including an animation of King Dave from the “Enjoy the Silence” video. By the time the first chords of “Behind the Wheel” filled the arena, even skeptics who had been dragged to the concert had been converted, with one former naysayer proclaiming the concert “better than U2’s” (held at Staples just a few weeks earlier).
Songwriter Martin Gore, never one to shy away from outrageous outfits, chose a pair of black-feathered angel wings to complete his ensemble, and assumed singing duties for several hits, including “Home.” Although more reserved a performer than Dave, Martin enjoys a fanbase just as loyal, and each time he strutted down the catwalk with his guitar, he provoked near-riots in the front rows. Andrew Fletcher, who in recent years has taken a back seat to first-hand musicianship in favor of more managerial aspects, seemed content in his barely visible role of flicking a few synthesizer keys. (Although officially a trio since Alan Wilder’s departure from the band in the mid-‘90s, Depeche Mode currently tours as a five-piece, with keyboardist Peter Gorden and drummer Christian Eigner, who has also contributed in the studio.)
After the 16-song main set, the band returned for an encore of three long-ago hits. Even though “Everything Counts” would have made a more than satisfactory finish, the audience knew the band couldn’t call it a night without the ultimate crowd-pleaser, which kicked off the second finale. For fans, the frantic waving of tens of thousands of arms during “Never Let Me Down Again” epitomizes the Depeche Mode experience.