I heard Depeche Mode for the first time on an alternative radio station, WLIR, in the early 80s. The station broadcasted from Long Island and played under-the-radar music. I could barely get the station on my radio, so I resorted to wrapping tin foil around my antennae. I was mesmerized by their electro synth dance sound and lead singer David Gahan’s dark, sultry, erotic, baritone, akin to the voice of The Great Oz from the Wizard of Oz, whose voice reverberates like a thunder clap.
It wasn’t just their sound that gripped me, it was their sense of style that attracted me. As a teen growing up in retro suburban Bergen County, NJ, surrounded by stale Lacoste-wearing kicking jocks, I needed a musical icon that exuded creativity and sophistication. I chose to become smitten with guys who wear black leather, slicked back hair, black eye makeup and nail polish. To quote my Catholic mother, “men who look like they are friends of Satan and will probably burn in hell for an eternity.”
Over three decades later, Depeche Mode released their 13th studio album this year, with a worldwide tour to promote it.
They released two NYC area dates in September, so I settled on the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, September 6th.
As you may know from my prior posts, I like to mingle and talk to fans and photograph them before each concert. Though the show was sold out, it didn’t feel crowded or claustrophobic in this new venue. Yet, there were kiosks selling alcohol every few steps and those were packed. That night it became crystal clear to me, Americans sure love booze. And everyone was courteous and respectful despite the fact that the endless lines for booze snaked around and continued throughout the concert. Barclays Center is also wheelchair accessible with attentive staff, who graciously carried my plastic cup of cheap white wine to my seating area.
When David Gahan, keyboardist Martin Gore and synthesizer/bass player Andy Fletcher swaggered onto the stage with the black spray painted words ‘WELCOME TO MY WORLD’ as a back drop on gigantic screens, my body went numb. Seconds later, my BFF and I started to scream and wrest each other’s arms as David Gahan breathlessly sang “Welcome to my world, step right through the door, leave your tranquilizers at home, you don’t need them anymore.” Mmmm, the sound at Barclay’s was pristine without rupturing my ear drums.
The giant screens projecting the band did not lie about their visage. Even though they are only in their early 50s, years of drugs, booze and sex were etched into their faces. They all battled addictions, but luckily kicked their habits by the late 90s and still remain drug and alcohol free.
After all these years, I was happy to see that they were still decked out in black, tats, black eye makeup and nail polish. They were all impressively fit. David Gahan’s biceps, abs and compact humdinger of a peach made me blush like a schoolgirl. Let’s not forget how that man can dance. He has more rhythm below the waist than a roomful of back up dancers in a Jay-Z video.
When ‘Black Celebration‘ came on, I took one look at my sidekick and we became unhinged. We were smacking and hanging on the railing in front of us until a security guard ran over to calm us down. I assured her we would take it down a notch and wouldn’t wake up to a front page headline reading : “Wheelchair girl and her BFF fly over 2nd floor railing onto drunken apathetic Depeche Mode crowd at Barclays.”
The songs ‘Policy of Truth‘, ‘Should Be Higher‘ (Watch Dave dance in this video. This is an excellent depiction of what I saw. The video back drop is amazing along with the sound.), ‘Barrel of a Gun‘, soon followed and luckily our heads were still attached to our bodies. But when I heard ‘The Child Inside‘, so beautifully sung by keyboardist Martin Gore, my eyes filled with tears. His angelic, soothing choir boy voice is the polar opposite of David’s. But it is the words of ‘Child’ that made me bite my tongue and hold back tears because of its profound meaning. Most adults lose their ‘inner child’ and don’t know how to get it back. This is the beauty of Martin’s song writing which is sometimes dark yet sober and honest.
There is darkness and death in your eyes
What have you got buried inside
The shallow grave in your soul
The ghosts that have taken control
You really should have dug a little deeper
Body parts are starting to appear and scare
The child inside away
Each tear that flows down your face
Trickles then picks up the pace
And turns to a river inside
A river that will not subside
I can hear that dreadful overflowing sound
And watching from afar I see a child is drowned
The child inside your heart
We patiently waited for the encore to hear a few of our all-time favorites.
When the encore did finally come, it started with ‘Home‘, then ‘Halo‘ which always reminds me of college days, since the album “Violator” was one I always heard blasting from the dorm rooms. Ah, so many memories.
‘Just Can’t Get Enough‘, (the quintessential Depeche 80s video), ‘I Feel You‘ and ‘Never Let Me Down Again‘ concluded their Brooklyn sojourn.
My BFF and I smacked each other, grunted with dismay and asked “Why the hell didn’t they play ‘Somebody’ and ‘Blasphemous Rumors’ –our 2 favorite songs?” Weren’t David Gahan, Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher supposed to consult their two most die-hard fans about this? Apparently, two days later at the Jones Beach, NY show, they did play ‘Somebody’ and more of their obscure 80s songs. I prefer those to the 90s and new millennial current songs.
If you have never heard the song ‘Somebody‘ please listen to it. In my opinion it is one of the deepest and most beautiful ‘love songs’ of my generation. ‘Blasphemous Rumors‘ is another one I love because it questions God, religion, suicide and life’s inequities. Read the lyrics here.
Overall, we enjoyed the show. David was energetic and danced the entire time. However, their energy, enthusiasm and audience engagement was not what it was 8 years ago at their “Touring the Angel’ tour and show at Madison Square Garden. The crowd at Barclays loved them as evidenced by the applause, the hootin’ and hollerin’ during all the songs they sang during the concert.
It is so amazing after 30 years of touring and writing some of the most amazing lyrics that defined my youth, they still send chills down my spine. While I am not certain I will attend more of their shows in the future, I will always listen to their music and delight in how many bands they have influenced musically. And if they are touring in their 70s still wearing black makeup and leather, I will be cheering, with my bright red matte-stained lips, ostrich feathered hat, screaming like a lunatic over music imbued with honesty, depth, darkness and introspection.