Watching Depeche Mode live, it’s hard to believe these guys formed some 30 years ago in small town England. Sure, they have the impressive back catalogue to prove it, and their seamless performances are the kind that can only be delivered by a well-oiled machine of a band who has toured the globe with regularity and sold some 100 million records along the way, but this isn’t just a greatest hits nostalgia act. Depeche Mode is still alive and kicking, with a new album Sounds Of the Universe debuting at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 this year and a headlining spot at this weekend’s Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, where they’ll perform at the same time as chart-topping young’uns Kings Of Leon.
And so when their “Tour of the Universe” hit Madison Square Garden last night the energy was as palpable as it is for a band half their age. At 47 years old, Dave Gahan is every bit the rock star he was in the ‘80s, still trim and sexy, showing off chiseled abs in a classic Gahan waistcoat-and-tight-trousers combo, and energetic as ever, doing his signature spins with no signs of whiplash. With his smooth baritone still in tact, and his black eyeliner still in place, it’s obvious the guy has no plans of slowing down. And why should he when the band can still pack in the crowds for two nights at Madison Square Garden?
The current line-up includes three original members—frontman Gahan, chief songwriter Martin Gore and keyboardist Andy Fletcher—and is still one of the best live acts out there, churning out back-to-back dazzlers with no small talk in between songs and truly no dull moments. The guys played fan favorites from nearly every era—Some Great Reward’s “Master and Servant,” Black Celebration’s “Stripped,” “Question Of Lust” and “Fly On the Windscreen,” Music For the Masses’ “Strangelove,” “Never Let Me Down Again” and “Little 15,” and, of course, Violator’s radio hits “Enjoy the Silence,” “Personal Jesus” and “Policy Of Truth,” along with later songs like “I Feel You” and the new “Jezebel,” sung by Gore.
And, just like always, there was an over-the-top set and lights show with videos of the band projected behind them. This time, we got the guys in dark silhouettes with arms outstretched crucifix-style for “Personal Jesus” and playfully dressed as astronauts during “Enjoy the Silence.”
Gore and Gahan still play off one another with perfect ease, showing a mutual respect for each other’s valuable role, knowing they’d be nothing without each other. Gahan name checks Gore, points to him for his guitar solos and leaves the stage to let him take over frontman duties on the few songs he sings. And Gore lets Gahan do what he does best, leading the fans through favorites with their arms swaying in the air, entertaining them with his famed moves, and still making them scream with his ass shaking. At the close of the show, the two men walked out to the end of the runway and dueted on the intimate nocturnal ode “Waiting For the Night”—the perfect way to send the audience off into the dark night.
Depeche Mode’s Tour Of the Universe dates:
Friday, August 7th Chicago Lollapalooza
Monday, August 10th Seattle Key Arena
Wednesday, August 12th San Francisco Shoreline Amphitheatre at Mountain View
Friday, August 14th San Diego Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre
Sunday, August 16th Los Angeles Hollywood Bowl
Monday, August 17th Los Angeles Hollywood Bowl
Wednesday, August 19th Anaheim, CA Honda Center
Thursday, August 20th Santa Barbara Santa Barbara Bowl
Saturday, August 22nd Las Vegas The Pearl
Sunday, August 23rd Phoenix US Airways Center Arena
Tuesday, August 25th Salt Lake City E Center
Thursday, August 27th Denver Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Saturday, August 29th Dallas Superpages.com Center
Sunday, August 30th Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Tuesday, Sept 1st Atlanta Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood
Friday, Sept 4th Tampa Ford Amphitheatre
Saturday, Sept 5th Ft. Lauderdale Bank Atlantic Center