There are certain bands you need to see live, in concert. They are the benchmark of their genre. Bands that you proudly say, “Yeah, I saw them...” For classic rock, The Who or the Rolling Stones come to mind. Legends from the grunge era, Nirvana, were a show to be seen in the day. Local hero, LeBron James, received a much scrutinized police escort so he could arrive on time to see Jay Z and Justin Timberlake recently; both icons in their music niché. However, if you were a child of the 80’s and the New Wave revolution, Depeche Mode is the mother off all super cool, always chic, Euro bands.
Depeche Mode, in support of their Delta Machine album, played the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida on September 15th. It was a cool venue (convenient for those of us on the Gulf Coast... even more so for the legions of fans in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and the West Palm area) that provided fantastic viewing; even in the nose bleed seats. More important, the sound quality was first rate. Which was a concern of mine for an electronica show. Not enough or muffled bass would muddy the sound. Not here. Punching bass and crystal clear highs.
The crowd was definitely middle aged; to be expected for a band that’s been playing for 30 years. However, everyone made an event of it and were upbeat. I’ve covered the spectrum with respect to concerts attended. From Paul McCartney at a football stadium to the throws of a mosh pit in Ft. Lauderdale for Suicidal Tendencies and everything in between. I must say, seeing a band like Depeche Mode is a pleasurable experience. Why? Well, the crowd is still relatively youthful and exciting. They dressed their best and were into the band’s music; both recent hits and old staples. With that said, it definitely wasn’t a “sit around” show nor was it a “get punched in the face” hardcore show. Just the right mix of everything.
We were fashionably late. Actually, in the era of a cashless society, I forgot to bring $20 for parking. So, off to the local ATM we went. Apparently, I wasn’t the only who forgot about parking as the line was a dozen people deep for the cash machine at the closest gas station. When we arrived back at the BB&T Center, the opening band, Bat For Lashes was just finishing their set. I’m not a huge fan of them (not because I don’t like them, rather, I’ve had limited exposure to their music) and was really looking forward to the headliner, Depeche Mode.
The first thing I noticed between sets was the choice of music. Normally, an eclectic yet mundane mix of music will be heard reverberating throughout a venue prior to the main band hitting the stage. However, with Depeche Mode ready to take the stage, our ears were filled with an obviously custom selection of electronica that set the mood for the night. Punctually, the lights dimmed right at 9:00 PM. Depeche Mode hit the stage with swagger and style. Sure, they’ve aged a bit, but they came out of the gate with more energy than bands half their age. Dave Gahan was every bit the front man of what is thought by many as the world’s coolest band. A dazzling multi-media performance entertained the audience from the start with with a combination of pre-recorded images as well as live footage of the band playing. By the time the third song started, “Walking in My Shoes”, the band had hit their stride. Known primarily for their “pop synth” sound, Depeche Mode had a hard hitting, live drummer on stage for this tour. The intro to the song was absolutely phenomenal and the live rendition of the song got the crowd grooving.
It was refreshing to watch the band play a diverse selection of songs from their music catalog. They reached back to songs like “Black Celebration”, explored songs from their ultra popular “Violater” album with performances of “Policy of Truth” and “Enjoy the Silence”, played recent hits such as “Precious” and got the crowd going with their latest singles, “Heaven” and the made for the dance floor, “Soothe My Soul”. One of the best performances of the evening was Martin Gore’s acoustic rendition of “But Not Tonight”. The crowd was absolutely enthralled by it, giving grand applause throughout. It was touching to see Gore, a seasoned performer, so obviously and graciously touched by the audience reaction. When the song ended, the crowd continued the song’s trademark “ohhhhhhhh”, leading the band’s keyboard player to chime in and play along with the audience. This, though subtle, was another reason I absolutely loved seeing Depeche Mode live. In an era of lip synching and pre-recorded backing tracks, the band’s level of musical talent permeates throughout their performance.
Through a blistering version of “Personal Jesus”, onto a five song encore including classic and modern hits such as “Just Can’t Get Enough” and “I Feel You”, and finishing with one of their all time greats, “Never Let You Down Again”, Depeche Mode played with style and all the glory of your youth. Which certainly hasn’t gone by.
Depeche Mode Live at the BB&T Center
September 15, 2013