Strutting ridiculousness has been Depeche Mode’s modus all the way back to the 1980s, when they were leather-wrapped runts of the electropop litter. At that time, hefty odds would have been offered on the Essex group not only outlasting peers such as New Order but, in the long run, becoming vastly credible too.
But here they are, more than 30 years into a career that has swung between highs, lows and the occasional heroin overdose (in the throes of addiction in the early '90s singer Dave Gahan suffered clinical death for several minutes).
Their latest incarnation is as unlikely voice of the downtrodden, with the single 'Where’s The Revolution' urging immediate storming of the barricades and the hurling of figurative brick-bats at those in power. The sentiment was briefly touched upon during their sold out 3Arena concert with the band performing the song – a stand out from this year’s Spirit LP – against a backdrop of a giant clenched fist.
But the sermonising ended there as the trio – joined by auxiliary guitarist and drummer – delivered a wham-bam set that showcased recent excursions (they dipped into most of the LPs put out since the millennium) while reserving pole position for their run of '80s and early '90s hits.
Depeche Mode’s not so secret weapon has always been Gahan, a tattooed pompadour who, preening and twirling, resembled a goth Freddie Mercury. His importance was underscored when Martin Gore, the ensembles songwriter, briefly took to the mic. Gore has an expressive voice and isn’t shy – yet he lacks Gahan’s live-wire presence and the atmosphere palpably diminished with the frontman in the wings.
The biggest smashes were saved until the end. Gahan stomped his feet as a video of animals looking sad accompanied 'Enjoy The Silence'. That tune’s downbeat ache was followed by the industrial chug of 'Never Let Me Down Again' before encore readings of 'Personal Jesus' and 'Walking In My Shoes'. Over the top, primal and with just a whiff of guilty pleasure, it was a reminder that nobody brings synth pop to the masses quite like Depeche Mode.
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