November 21, 2005

Rabid fans pay homage to Depeche Mode

By Darryl Morden

SAN DIEGO (Hollywood Reporter) - Depeche Mode turns moody
introspection into communal celebration, which has earned the
veteran English band a rabidly obsessive following that filled
San Diego's ipayOne Center on Saturday for the first of four
southern California shows.

Along with the Cure, the band is now second-generation
classic alt-rock, Britpop division, yet remains a creative
force with its electronic-based, atmospheric, beat-laden songs.
A futuristic yet sparse stage setting reflected the band's
sounds, with a trio of gleaming oval keyboards dotting the

Lead singer Dave Gahan wielded the microphone stand like a
staff, and when he would launch into a mad twirl, the crowd
went wild. He started the evening in a sport coat that quickly
came off to reveal a black vest that was soon unbuttoned and
later removed, to delighted female howls.

Chief musical architect Martin Gore was dressed in black
with wings. The garb seemed to say, contrary to the title of
the band's latest album, "Playing the Angel," that such
attempts at heavenly ascendance are a sham.

While hardly the traditional guitar hero, Gore is a
distinctive stylist; his reverberating lines of embellishment,
pinging riffs and melodramatic framing belay any notions that
this is just a synth group. As usual, third member Andy
Fletcher remained in the rear at the keyboards with a tour
keyboardist and drummer.

The show led off with the new confessional throb "A Pain
That I'm Used To," followed by the crackling electro-blues of
"John the Revelator." Most of the arena remained on its feet
all night, even during the slower ballads.

A blend of the new and old ranged from the exotic
invitation of "World in My Eyes" to the more accusatory and
challenging "Walking in My Shoes" and the current single
"Precious," acknowledging the fragile heart and said to be the
product of Gore's divorce.

The new album marks the first time in the band's 25-year
history that Gahan has contributed material, and he was clearly
beside himself to be singing the songs live, especially the
passionately bittersweet "Suffer Well."

Gore took the spotlight for a pair of tunes that included
the poignant longings of "Home," as a massive metallic sphere
dangling above the band flashed the song's title in various

Momentum took a dip with some lackluster midset numbers.
But the Autobahn pulse of "Behind the Wheel" set off a series
of sheer crowd-pleasers, with boisterous audience
call-and-response in the refrains of the stomping "Personal
Jesus" and the group's epic "Enjoy the Silence."

Two rounds of encores included the rising swell of
"Everything Counts," with fan voices loud for the chorus; hands
waved across the arena for "Never Let Me Down Again."

More than a decade ago, Depeche Mode released an album
called "Songs of Faith and Devotion." But this night was more
about trials survived and absolution found on one's own terms.

The group kicked off a two-night stand at the Staples
Center in Los Angeles Monday, and was due to play the Arrowhead
Pond of Anaheim on Wednesday.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter