Depeche Mode Packs Ak-Chin Pavilion

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Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode performs in Phoenix, AZ (Photo by Greg Cohen)

Cool.  Sophisticated. Dramatic. Those are the words that first come to mind while watching Dave Gahan moved fluidly across the stage to open the Depeche Mode concert. Channeling a little Mick  Jagger and a little Freddie Mercury, his movements were fluid, dynamic and, most of all, energetic.  Watching him on stage make it easy to forget that Depeche Mode first came together in 1980 – almost 40 years ago with a huge string of hits in the 80s and 90s.   Depeche Mode performed at Ak-Chin Pavilion last night in a sold-out show.

 The crowd ran the gamut from middle-aged, to middle-aged with their children, to teenagers and young adults sans parents. It amazes me that a band that’s been around this long can remain this relevant to such a broad range fans.   It speaks incredibly well to the way that not only has their early music withstood the test of time, but their more recent music continues to speak to fans today.   That being said, a fan in the row behind me leaned over to me mid-way through the early part of the set and asked me when they were going to play their early hits.  So while their current music clearly has its fans, it was also clear that many in attendance were there to hear the tracks they grew up with in the late 80s and 90s.

 The set list ran the gamut of their catalog. The early part of the show was dominated by more recent music from recent albums Sounds of the Universe and Spirit.  It wasn’t until the 6th song that they played a track from their 1993 hit album Songs of Faith and Devotion and then from their 1990 mega-hit Violator as the 7th song of their set. But neither of those tracks, In Your Room and World in My Eyes, respectively, were among their massive U.S. radio hits.   While there were a handful of their hits from Violator and Songs of Faith and Devotion, their first two really big albums in the US from 1990 and 1993 respectively, they never played massive radio hits People are People or Policy of Truth.  They started playing their big radio hits about two-thirds into the show with Wrong, followed two songs later by  Enjoy the Silence, which led into their larger hits to close out the show.

It’s amazing how relevant Depeche Mode’s early music remains today as it did in the late 80s and early 90s when it was fir released. For instance, from Enjoy the Silence,

 Words like violence

Break the silence

Come crashing in

Into my little world

Painful to me

Pierce right through me

Can’t you understand

Oh my little girl

If that doesn’t speak to the polarization in our country right now, with people on both sides screaming vitriol at each other, I don’t know what does. Or how about from Everything Counts,

 The grabbing hands

Grab all they can

All for themselves after all

The grabbing hands

Grab all they can

All for themselves after all

It’s a competitive world

Everything counts in large amounts

With the income and wealth gaps in the US being the largest they’ve ever been and discussion of to what degree a proposed tax reform benefits the 1%, these lyrics seem as relevant today as when they were first released.

The show was also a tremendous visual presentation with terrific lighting and videos on a large screen spanning the width and height of the stage.  The lighting was especially terrific with dynamic towers of spots on either side of the stage that were used to great effect throughout the show, with spots cutting sharply across both the stage and audience.  The lighting was truly visually stunning.

Depeche Mode sounds quite solid for having been at this for as long as they have. Both Gahan and guitarist/vocalist Martin Gore sounded excellent singing their respective songs.  Again, making it easy to forget how long they’ve been at this.   It was a tremendous performance that was incredibly well received by everyone there, regardless of age or when they had the fortune of discovering Depeche Mode for themselves.

P.S. Doing a David Bowie song during the encore was totally unnecessary because, quite frankly, Depeche Mode’s own catalog is just that deep – but it was totally cool.   That being said, it would have been really nice to hear People are People, particularly in this politically volatile environment in which people demonize each other over simple differences of opinion.

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