Tag Archives: depeche mode

where’s the revolution? (everything counts in large amounts)

Paul and I went to see Depeche Mode on Wednesday at the Barclays Center. And I think it may be our last time seeing what are purportedly one of my favorite bands


I haven’t seen Depeche Mode for years – at least three years and three albums. Part of that is the expense, because when you go see a band that big, the venues are expensive, and the stadium/arena/ampitheater experience is just not that great to begin with.  Part of it, however, is the ever-present fear that one is going to go see a beloved band and it just won’t be the same.

I fell in love with Depeche Mode’s live shows on the 1999 Exciter tour, with the combination of sorrow inherent in the song material and the joy they took in performing. I went to see the 2005 Playing the Angel tour in L.A., and happily wrote a very long recap of the concert. And then we went to see the 2009 Sounds of the Universe tour at the Hollywood Bowl and it kind of felt…flat. Despite the venue, despite the band, it wasn’t the (reach out and touch) faith based experience I wanted.

The world is a terrible, shallow place, full of heartbreak and pain, misery and hopelessness, but there is still such perfect joy to be had in the music, in the singing, in the expression of those ideas. — from my 2005 “Playing the Angel” tour recap

And so I didn’t try a Depeche Mode show again until this tour. Although, to be sure I did get the best experience possible for this show, I bought floor tickets on fan club pre-sale, expensive even for Barclays, paid for with my unexpected March bonus. We skipped the opening act entirely, so we were settled in by the time the band came on, time we used to discuss the last few albums and why we just have not been able to get into them. I often wonder, is it me and my inherent laziness that is preventing me from getting into a beloved bands later albums? Or is it just that not everything a band puts out is something I am going to connect with? Is it fair for me to feel like Depeche Mode are “phoning it in” just because I’m not reacting to a “Going Backwards” the same visceral way I reacted to “Precious”?  Or is it just that these albums don’t have the same intensity that the past productions did?

And then we saw Depeche Mode spend two hours performing and trying to evoke some sort of emotion in their audience without feeling it themselves.  It should be no surprise that the emotional connection I expected never happened. I understand that Depeche Mode have been playing for almost forty years and can’t be expected to have the same connection with the music and the emotions and the audience that they had half a lifetime ago when I first saw them in Vancouver.  Still, Wednesday’s show felt too much like a performance, like a play performed by jaded actors who have been playing the same parts for too long, but who love the spotlight too much to stop performing.  The band, so joyful to share all of their cynical, depressing songs in the past, seemed to have no emotional connection with their own music.  I couldn’t pick up on either the despair that drives the songs, or the joy at sharing and performing that music I saw at past shows, and the absence of both made me sad.

I can’t blame the band.  It’s been thirty-seven years since Speak and Spell came out.  It’s been twenty-four since Ultra.  There is less time between the Erasure-and-Yaz Depeche Mode and the depressed, dark, drug hazed mid-90s band, than there is between Exciter and now.  It’s a lot of time.  These are humans.  They’ve lived a lot.  I understand that rationally, but I’m still irrationally disappointed to miss that emotional connection at a live show.  (I was also irrationally disappointed that Dave Gahan has chosen to grow a pencil moustache that makes him look like a goth rock Walt Disney but that’s another sidetrack.)

You can see my house from here: Dave Gahan’s video for “Cover Me” was shot in Venice, CA. When it played on the screens at the live show, I recognized my old neighborhood instantly.

The most telling example of where the band just couldn’t make the connection for me was in the back to back pairing of “Where’s the Revolution” with “Everything Counts”.  The former is Depeche Mode’s answer to the era of Brexit, Trump and populist overlords, a call back to the Beatles song with which they opened the show (The opening sound clip when the house lights went down was “You Say You Want A Revolution”, which was apparently a theme set-up)   “Everything Counts” is a song from the Thatcher years, and yet it speaks even better to our current era than it does to the 1980s capitalism it was written for.  As Dave Gahan asked, over and over, “where’s the revolution?”, in front of six-storey high images of marching feet and pumping fists, followed by the line, “come on people you’re letting me down,” I cringed.  Depeche Mode have never called for revolution, they have only, somewhat cynically, described a merciless system, a “competitive world”.  When they went into “Everything Counts”, that was the call for revolution, a relentlessly upbeat song about the evils of capitalism to remind us that the graph on the wall tells the story of it all (and the graph is very likely data from Cambridge Analytica).

Grabbing hands grab all they can, everything counts in large amounts

Depeche Mode have been a groundbreaking band for decades, not just because of the way they use their instruments, but because of the way they pushed synthpop into telling stories of the human condition and our desperate need for faith and love, our common conditions as humans.  They are unlikely global superstars, a mega-band that are emotionally and musically complicated enough inspire fierce devotion in their fans, yet are approachable enough to fill arenas on tour (Barclays especially was packed to the rafters).  Yet this tour, perhaps their own lyrics, from “A Pain That I’m Used To” on Angel say it best:  “I don’t need to believe all the dreams you conceive / You just need to achieve something that rings true”.   The Spirit tour just wasn’t something that rang true, and for that, while I still love Depeche Mode, this may not be a band that I see again live.

a pain that i’m used to :: depeche mode concert recap

I have more work in front of me than I like to think about. I’m still at my day job office and have to get an awful lot done for my night job when I get home to the Shaque.

So what am I doing?

Reliving last night’s Depeche Mode show and writing the recap.

Let’s just say that I have been to some wonderful concerts in my day. But no one does shows like Depeche Mode. There is simply no other group that combines sheer enthusiasm, joy and love of the music and the show, with the despair, pain and longing that Depeche Mode write about. The songs on their own are melancholy, but the songs in concert are indescribable. It’s being able to find pure happiness in the song itself, while still accepting the subject material. The world is a terrible, shallow place, full of heartbreak and pain, misery and hopelessness, but there is still such perfect joy to be had in the music, in the singing, in the expression of those ideas.

Last night’s show was easily one of the best concerts I’ve been to. I’d actually put it on a par with the Exciter tour. Exciter had better visual effects, more creative use of light and shadow and images, but it also had a lot of Exciter in it. “Touring the Angel” had more elaborate props and video screens, and used less shadow and more video, but it also skipped right over what I consider to be Depeche Mode’s weakest album. I’m not a big fan of Exciter, although I love “Dream On” as a single. However I do love “Playing the Angel” as much as I love “Black Celebration” and “Ultra”, and almost as much as “Music for the Masses” and “Songs of Faith & Devotion” (which is my absolute favorite Depeche Mode album, ever), so I was happy to hear the songs live, rather than waiting for them to be over so that the band could go back to singing songs off “Some Great Reward” and “Violator”.

There’s only two bands I’m obsessive about – Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode. So, without further ado, let’s get into the show itself. Because I almost flew off the floor a few times during it, and I danced for pure happiness, and I sang and waved my arms in a unified stadium of thousands and thousands of people, and it was just so. fucking. amazing.

Review behind the cut, because it’s longer than the actual show was.

setlist and comments and quotes and happiness, and this is very very long

not quite sure where the morning went

One year ago today, I was home in Victoria, with my father in the hospital. I remember watching him, a confused old man in UVic sweatpants, hobble down the hall with his walker. His false teeth were still a bit too big for his face, and he shook when he walked, and he kept forgetting I lived in Los Angeles, not Vancouver or Seattle. And he was better than he had been the month before, but he was still so sick, and I went home to L.A. miserable and broken hearted to see my father so ravaged by his own damn stupidity. No one thought he would walk again, or regain much more use of his brain – the recovery he’d already made in the five weeks since his minor stroke was considered exceptional.

That was the last of three emergency visits, and by the time I went home again in May of 2005, Dad was up to a cane. When I came home two months ago in September, he was absolutely zipping around with it. When I go home in two more weeks, fifty-four weeks after that last fall visit a year ago, I imagine he’ll be better still. He’s graduated to increased weights and resistance in his physio work, goes to the gym twice a week to work on his legs with the therapists, and looks/acts like his old self. I can’t say enough how proud I am of him for working to get better, how grateful I am to my mother for pushing and encouraging him, and how happy I am just to whatever Higher Powers there are for seeing fit to help my old dad regenerate his brain.

I know I post about this a lot, but every time an anniversary comes up of one of those horrible trips home, it reminds me again, I am lucky. Many things may be wrong in my social life right now, and people may be upset with me, but as my father says, “well, it’s all a bit of a tempest in a pot of tea, isn’t it kid?”, and compared to the big things – my family, for example – it is.

This morning, I was woken up by someone listening to or watching some sort of Baptist evangelism at a high volume. So I got up, realized I was still in my tights and miniskirt from Bar Sinister last night, changed into jeans, and stumbled into the living room to make coffee and watch TV. And after a minute of flipping through the DirecTV guide, I found…an entire HOUR of Depeche Mode themed programming on VH1 Classic.

I *heart* VH1 classic, by the way. I will watch classic alternative videos for HOURS. And I was delighted to find a program that interspersed a “hanging out interview” with the band, with classic Depeche Mode videos. Especially since it’s such a contrast from, say, “The Meaning of Love” video to “Halo”. (Yes, sammynella, they showed the HA LO video, and I thought of you.)

And then I flipped over to the History Channel, and they were running a documentary on Vikings. So that was another half hour.

The problem is, with the TV, I tend to lose time. I should have made it to the Farmer’s Market and back by now. But I’m still moving slowly – having everything I’ve done wrong in the past year come back to haunt me all at once tends to paralyze me still, especially when I stop and think about everything that’s been said to me this week. TV is just a way of distracting myself until I can get over it completely.

But last night did cheer me up immensely. I went to Bar Sinister with a few of the core group of really good friends that I’ve been extremely lucky to have. And I also adore Bar Sinister. It’s one of the most fun places for me to be. When we got in, Nine Inch Nails’ “Ringfinger” was on, and it went directly into an Assemblage 23 track. They play Joy Division, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, and the remix of Depeche Mode’s “Fly on the Windscreen” and the Rammstein cover of “Stripped” over the course of the evening, and before I left around 1:30, played “Cities in Dust” (Siouxsie), “Cuts You up” (Peter Murphy) and “Lucretia, My Reflection” (Sisters of Mercy) all in a row. And I will go in there and dance for two hours to that kind of goth music, and wonder where the time went.

And it’s been a great experience also in that all the friends I take there love it. They come and dance, and even if they don’t know the music the way my roomate and I do (Andrew and I were yelling back and forth over whether one track was Seabound or Covenant – it was Seabound) they still love to listen to and dance to it. Everyone seems to like going. Which makes me very happy.

And of course, all that dancing wears me out. Last night, I fell asleep fully dressed, in the poofy pinstriped miniskirt, cut-up black T-shirt, patterned black tights and layers of eyeliner I’d worn out. I still have a piece of black velvet ribbon tied around my neck, and the studded leather wristcuff I bought years ago around my right wrist. But I felt so much better for going.

So now it’s noon, and I’ve been up since 9am, and I’m not quite sure where the morning went. I still get paralyzed by sadness, or lost in distractions to avoid thinking about everything that’s been said to me, or about me. But I’m starting to come out of that daze, and focus on the things that do make me happy, and on being with the people who also make me happy, and I hope, I hope, in two weeks or so…I won’t be taking any of this sadness back to Victoria for Thanksgiving.

counting down to the angel

I’m listening to Songs of Faith & Devotion for about the third time today, because I know my roomates are around, and I don’t want them to know that I’m still listening to Precious. On repeat. For twenty minutes, if you count the time I spent watching the video. It’s way better than anything off Exciter, of course. I think it’s up there with Songs or with Violator.

On that note, I also just found the poster from the Exciter show that I went to in 2001. On eBay. It will be here in time to hang on a wall wherever we move to.

Anyways. Pre-sale info is out for the Depeche Mode tour this fall. Basically, it involves pre-ordering Playing the Angel on iTunes. Then you get a password to take to Ticketmaster on the 20th when the tickets go on pre-sale, and you can buy priority seating for the stadium shows. Which, really, is the only way to get seats close enough to see the band. I had seats in the seventeenth row or so for Exciter, but the PNE venue in Vancouver is far smaller than the Staples Center in L.A., and I don’t want to have to stand on a seat, in full goth wear, just to see the screen.

(It’s very easy to trip over a full-length triple-layer taffeta-and-lace skirt when standing on a chair. I know this because I almost fell off my chair at Nine Inch Nails in 2000)

I will buy the iTunes, even though the album doesn’t come out until October. And I’m probably going to buy the CD anyways, so I’m paying my $12 basically for advance ticket privileges. And iTunes isn’t even compatible with my iRiver MP3 player, which only works with MP3 and WMA formats. So I’ll have to Tunebite the CD to be able to listen to it in portable format. It annoys me that I’m limited to this option to get the pre-sale tickets, but hey, I imagine the iPod owners are happy.

depeche mode tour dates!

The North American Depeche Mode tour dates are up!

I have been waiting for these for WEEKS. I’m planning to hit the L.A. and San Diego shows, because there are few experiences I consider more religious than a Depeche Mode live show.

Mmm. Melodramatics. Ten weeks to go.