Sunday, November 13, 2005

mode a la mode

Just about everybody I knew, including all three of my roommates, had business Friday night. Where most people would see despair, I saw a great opportunity. Friday night became the NIGHT OF JON. I blasted my five-disc changer with The Bravery cd as well as four Depeche Mode discs. I put one television to Spike's showing of The Warriors and I played hours and hours of video games on the other one. I've already mentioned that I just got a new video game and I was pretty anxious to sink my teeth more into it. I also got a demo cd in the mail that had playable versions of some cool new stuff like Star Wars Battlefront II and We Love Katamari. It reminded me of the good old days before I had a ton of friends. Back then I used to relish my Saturday nights where I'd watch Monstervision. Monstervision was this great show that used to be on TNT where they just show two old fantasy/horror/sci-fi movies and in commercial breaks this rednecky guy named Joe Bob Briggs told us what he thought of the action thus far. Some people may think it's pathetic to watch four hours of B-movie schlop every Saturday night. For me, it was the best time of the week. Friday was a whole wicked lot similar to the old Saturdays of yore.

So why was I blasting The Bravery and Depeche Mode? We all know the answer to that question. Saturday night Depeche Mode came to our own E Center and the Killer-hating Bravery opened up for them. My old friend Kristen won the "who wants to go see Depeche Mode with Jon and maybe throw in a couple of bucks?" contest. When she and I were neighbors after she borrowed my Songs of Faith and Devotion she wrote to me a note that said something like: "Wow, I didn't realize music that great was possible." I'm pretty sure she was just buttering me up so that I'd take her to an actual Depeche Mode show years later. So I totally have to apologize to some other girls who may have wanted to go. Kristen was the biggest fan I knew who wanted to go. I was worried about taking somebody who wasn't as big a fan because the band is so different. Synthesizers, backing tape, age -- they have a lot going against them in the live department. Looking back though, I'm sorry I didn't drag more friends along.
Here's an actual image from the show!
Okay fine, camera phones don't work that well. I put some other images from other shows that I got on down below.

We came in later than we should have toward the middle of The Bravery's set. They were good and that's all I need to say about them. Depeche Mode took stage a little after nine. Their set was even weirder than the other three times I've seen them. Their keyboard stations looked like terminals from Lost In Space. There was a flying saucer looking thing with the words "sex," "pain," "angel," "love," "vice," and something else on the other side that I couldn't see affixed to the side. Every once in a while one of the words would light up at appropriate meaningful times during the show. I was glad to find that, I was right, most of the songs really are about sex. They had six screens in the back which they utilized differently than usual The other three times I've seen them there was one straight screen in the back that displayed films specifically made for each song. They did a little of that, but most of the time the screens displayed live, yet erratic, images of the band.

Here's the setlist (songs with asterisks are from the new cd):
> Intro> *A Pain That I'm Used To> *John The Revelator> A Question Of Time> Policy Of Truth> *Precious> Walking In My Shoes> *Suffer Well> *Damaged People> Home> *I Want It All> *The Sinner In Me> I Feel You> Behind The Wheel> World In My Eyes> Personal Jesus> Enjoy The Silence
encore>> Somebody> Just Can't Get Enough> Everything Counts
encore #2> Never Let Me Down Again> Goodnight Lovers

Can I just say that Dave Gahan is one of the slickest cats I've ever seen? He knows how to move his body better than any man I know. He uses the mic stand almost like a male pole-dancer might. He slides along the stage like a reptile. He spins like coked-out ballet guy. Over the past 25 years in a band where they play behind keyboards, all of the live work has been on his shoulders and he's honed it immaculately.

Martin Gore, the mastermind of the band, reminds me of the live awkwardness of Robert Smith. Gore, no showman but goofy in his own right took to the stage in a fake black mohawk and dark angel wings. I guess it let us know who the real guy playing the angel is.

There were a few interesting surprises in some of the songs. The versions of "Walking In My Shoes" and "Home" were unrecognizable arrangements at first. In the middle of "Never Let Me Down Again" shifted to the remixed arrangement bonus track from Music for the Masses that sounds nothing like the original song. Oh, and speaking of, I'm actually kind of sick of waving my arms to that song the way Dave makes us do it. I've done it five times now.

The first encore was a total shock. They played three old songs they didn't have to (Although we were pretty disappointed that "Master and Servant" wasn't played despite "Master and Servant" t-shirts being sold). For the first time, "Somebody" didn't get the massive unusual crowd response it's gotten in the past. We got to sing the chorus of "Everything Counts" a cappella, which sounded just as awesome as the famous audience participation of it on 101. My friend J.B. actually didn't make it to the show (he gave his tickets to my other friend J.R.'s brother Josh and his wife). If J.B. made it though, he would have disowned Depeche Mode as soon as they started playing "Just Can't Get Enough."

With "Just Can't Get Enough," they had a truly unique setlist composed of legitimate Depeche Mode tunes written by Vince Clarke, Martin Gore and David Gahan. Usually the whole show is Martin tunes (considering he wrote 95% of the Depeche Mode canon). Anyway, Dave sang two of the three songs he wrote for the new cd ("Suffer Well," "I Want It All"), which were adequate, but pretty dull too. "Suffer Well" would have been sufficient. I was also perplexed by Martin's vocal inclusion of "Damaged People" when "Macro" would have been a better choice. "Lilian" and "The Darkest Star" were curiously missing from the setlist considering they are two of the best new songs and "Star" contains the lyric "playing the angel," which would fit well in a tour called "Touring the Angel." Depeche Mode always insist on playing too heavy on their most recent cd, which honestly was awesome when I saw them a few months after Songs of Faith and Devotion (my favorite cd ever) came out. They played 7 of the 11 vocal tracks from Playing the Angel (and I actually preferred some of the new songs they didn't play). In my opinion, they've been around too long to be messing with the stuff people don't care enough about.

Harping on the new stuff aside, the show really, really rocked. "A Question of Time" is a standard I've heard done by them five times if I include David Gahan's solo show. It's also got a riff I never get tired of hearing. The flying saucer displayed a three and a half minute countdown during the song which sort of upped the urgency. "Personal Jesus" relied more heavily on Martin's guitar than ever before. Live, it was far more intense than Marilyn Manson's version. "I Feel You," undoubtedly the loudest, rawest Depeche Mode song was a delightful energetic highlight. It was a little awkward with Kristen there, however, since the screens didn't display the band, but instead displayed a girl eager to lose her clothes.

Notable exceptions: "Halo" (a usual live staple and also my very favorite song ever), "Stripped," "People Are People" (never much liked the song, but it probably the one I've heard the most on the radio), "Strangelove," "Condemnation," "Master and Servant" (already mentioned that), "The Bottom Line" (a pretty obscure one, but one of my favorites and I know they do it live on some occasions), "It's No Good," "Dream On" and "I Feel Loved." Maybe next time when they release another greatest hits compilation.

Have you ever noticed that bands rarely play a ton of stuff from their second to last album? "Goodnight Lovers" was the only song from Exciter, but I never realized just how beautiful and fitting a closing song it is. Instead of spanning the stage like they did all night Dave and Martin performed it huddled right next to each other right in front of Andy Fletcher's keyboard pod. It was cozy and warm and a very weird way to end a Depeche Mode show. But it totally worked. At the end of your next wicked long day, get out Exciter and sit back and listen to "Goodnight Lovers." It's blissy.

Wow that's it (three days later)! I can't wait to do this again in three years or so. And get excited for the next show because I really want you to come with me this time.


Blogger Special K said...

Wow, Jon, I'm really flattered. I thought I was just a female with a pulse and a couple bucks...I don't even remember writing that note to you...although I will say that if the note didn't get me the spot, the 101 LP that I gave you for Christmas 2-3 years ago should have :) ... I agree that they should have played I feel loved, at least. and Halo. if only for you. Anyway, this was a wonderful review, and thank you for allowing me to join you at the concert. It was good to see you again.

November 17, 2005 10:22 PM  
Blogger Special K said...

oh. sad. you didn't like my comment....


November 18, 2005 7:10 PM  

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