I have been a huge fan of Depeche Mode’s since my older sister introduced me to Violator nigh on a quarter-century ago (truly, I owe her much for also exposing me to Led Zeppelin, Pixies, Alice in Chains, just to name a few others). So when we discovered they were touring to promote their new album, Delta Machine, my sister and I found pre-sale codes and pulled ourselves away from office tasks one weekday morning to have a conference call, simultaneously working to secure the best seats we could find as soon as tickets went on sale. $150 apiece and several months later, we had beautiful sightlines stage right at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn just a few days before my sister’s birthday.
Depeche Mode has released 13 albums to date, starting in 1981 through earlier this year, with no more than 4 years between albums and no apparent plans to slow down. With such an extensive catalog, my list of what I wanted to hear them play (which I admit was partially influenced by the acclaimed 101 live double album released in 1989, just a year before Violator) was massive. I have never before anticipated a show more giddily (nor dropped so much cash on one).
I was not disappointed.
Over the years I have tended toward smaller venues or offbeat outdoor venues with better sound. However, the Barclays Center delivered fine acoustics particularly for a large arena, as well as impressive lighting and a stage that managed to look intimate but not cramped with 5 performers, a full drum set and 3 synthesizers (and plenty of room for Dave Gahan to twirl).
Founding member Andy Fletcher grounded the performance with his synthesizer, while fellow members Martin Gore switched between keyboard and guitar, and Dave Gahan sang lead for almost the full 2 hours, working the crowd and stage. On the couple occasions when the rest of the band left the stage to just Martin Gore and Peter Gordeno, the former sounded incredible, singing gorgeously sparse arrangements of some of his compositions, including Black Celebration‘s “But Not Tonight” and Ultra‘s “Home,” accompanied only by Gordeno on keyboard and backing vocals. While Gahan announced to the New York crowd that it was “good to be home,” it was Gore who demonstrated the band’s joy at performing together.
A friend texted me that she hoped they played “Personal Jesus,” to which I jokingly replied I was sure they were practically legally obligated to do so. Sure enough, that’s how they ended their set, immediately preceded by “Enjoy the Silence.” During the encore, they played possibly the most persistently popular though uncharacteristic Depeche Mode tune, “Just Can’t Get Enough,” from their first album. The crowd, of which I was probably among the youngest, went nuts and the band clearly had fun performing it. This was immediately countered by the dark and disturbing “I Feel You”, which jarringly starts with a discordant screech that is repeated throughout the song (and which is even more haunting if you’ve seen the film Head On).
Finally, at which point I actually beat my sister’s shoulder with excitement, the opening strains of my theme song, “Never Let Me Down Again,” began resounding through the arena. I listened and sang and observed in euphoria and awe as #1 on my list was fulfilled. I cannot remotely describe this, so here’s the recording from 101, which still doesn’t come close:
I think I can die happy now.
Other highlights included:
- 45-year old blonde woman in front of us attempting to dance sexily like a 20-year old at a club while her husband kept trying to stop her making a fool of herself and failing
- Christian Eigner’s drumming, which was more intricate than one might expect from a synth-pop act
- “Precious,” which the band paired with a montage of puppies (PRECIOUS PUPPIES!) as if the song on its own is not heartrending enough
- Gahan, ever the showman, twirling quite a bit, leading me to fear several times he was going to strike Gore with his mike stand
- Gahan hugging Gore after the latter’s solo performances, which garnered a collective “awwww” from the audience.
Setlist – Barclays Center, Brooklyn – 09-06-13:
Welcome to My World
Walking in My Shoes
Policy of Truth
Should Be Higher
Barrel of a Gun
The Child Inside [performed by Gore and Gordeno]
But Not Tonight [performed by Gore and Gordeno]
Soothe My Soul
A Pain That I’m Used To
A Question of Time
Enjoy the Silence
Home [performed by Gore and Gordeno]
Just Can’t Get Enough
I Feel You
Never Let Me Down Again