With artists ranging from Arcade Fire to Deftones, Gary Numan and, er, Shakira all happy to acknowledge a debt and a new generation joining the fold every few years, Depeche Mode have maintained a relevance and commercial status (latest Delta Machine has been another worldwide hit) that most in their situation could only dream about. Back in town after only three years, the O2 audience is the perfect cross section of ages and styles, all united in eager anticipation.
Arriving broodily (how else could they?) to the double Delta Machine offering of ‘Welcome To My World’ and ‘Angel’, the pace is set early on. The juxtaposition of new and old material demonstrates their flawless ability to whip a potentially too cool for school crowd into frenzy. This is a band returning every few years, not just for the sake of nostalgia, but with a belief in their recent musical endeavours that is largely matched by their audience.
As ever, at the centre of it all is Dave Gahan. A consummate and fully charged performer, he clearly still loves this feeling and his energy radiates to every corner of the room. For the frontman of an electronic band, he’s one hell of a rock star. Yet for all of his performance staples – slithering snake hip gyrations, menacing grins, spinning whirligig and crotch grabbing antics – his personal Jesus/menace status is quietly matched by Martin Gore’s hauntingly intimate performances on ‘The Child Inside’ and ‘But Not Tonight’, reciprocated by a cacophony of chanting from the crowd that genuinely appears to move him. The two come together perfectly on a sublime ‘Enjoy The Silence’, which culminates in an intimate moment between the singer and his long term musical partner’s guitar. Andy Fletcher, meanwhile, remains in the shadows – still core to the trio but happy for screens and lights to take the visual strain. Indeed it’s the Anton Corbijn video for the aptly titled ‘Heaven’ – another from Delta Machine – that best demonstrates their unity tonight.
The encore covers all the bases of an extraordinary career. Gore cements the appreciation of the O2 with an exquisite acoustic rendering of ‘Shake The Disease’, before Goldfrapp’s remix of ‘Halo’ takes things back to the dance floor. This is nothing compared to outbreak of mass movement that greets the synth riff of ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, still sounding as life affirming as it did when State last saw them at the RDS in 1986. They seemed to be at their peak then and, while they have taken some dark turns in the intervening years (demonstrated perfectly by the epic closing pair of ‘I Feel You’ and ‘Never Let Me Down’), that is still the case. Tonight they have perfectly orchestrated their audience and enjoyed every minute of the encounter, whilst whetting appetites for a future return. There’s still much more to come from Depeche Mode – it’s reconstruction time again.
Photo: Paulo Goncalves