It’s been a rollercoaster year for Depeche Mode. Back in April the synthpop veterans released their latest opus, Sounds of the Universe, to generally positive reviews and immediately hit the road in support of it. But not long into the tour singer Dave Gahan fell ill resulting in the cancellation of several dates whilst he underwent a procedure to remove a malignant tumour. It wasn’t the first time Gahan rubbed shoulders with death but, proving he leads a somewhat charmed existence, he made a full recovery and within weeks the group were back on track.
Fast forward to tonight’s show at the O2 and the sight of the evergreen frontman pirouetting across the stage makes it hard to believe the stories about his recent health scare were actually true. With a monstrous screen behind them mixing surreal images of deserts and giant eyes with live views of the band, the Basildon trio kick off tonight’s set with ‘In Chains’ and follow up quickly with ‘Wrong’ – the lead single from the new album. Both tracks stand up well when placed beside crowd favourites like ‘Walking in My Footsteps’ and ‘It’s No Good’, proving that the group are still capable of producing quality material. And after Martin Gore steps up to take over singing duties on ‘Miles Away/The Truth Is’ the group seem genuinely taken aback when the audience gives their stamp of approval by providing the backing vocals.
It’s still the older tracks that people react the more strongly too, though, and there’s plenty for them to cheer about tonight – songs like ‘Precious’, ‘Policy of Truth’ and ‘I Feel You’ all make it onto the set list, delivered with the same vitality and brooding attitude as when they were first committed to record. And there’s rapturous receptions for honest-to-goodness music anthems such as ‘Enjoy the Silence’ and ‘Never Let Me Down Again’, with those in the seated areas hopping to their feet and joining in with the sing-along and mass waving of arms.
As the show approaches its conclusion, Gore takes centre stage once again for a rendition of ‘One Caress’ before Gahan returns to the microphone to lead superb versions of ‘Stripped’ and ‘Behind the Wheel’ before delivering the piÃ¨ce de rÃ©sistance with ‘Personal Jesus’. It’s an altogether magnificent experience and provides the perfect end to a sensational performance.
Photos: Bob Dixon