Depeche Mode enjoy the limelight

 

Review by Jack Foley

THE Eighties revival spearheaded most recently by New Order continued at Wembley Arena on Wednesday and Thursday nights with Depeche Mode for two evenings of pure entertainment which mixed the best of the old with some outstanding work from the new.

Like New Order, Depeche Mode were something of an Eighties institution, huge in both the UK and America and constantly willing to change their styles. The main difference being that while New Order disappeared into the musical wilderness for several years, Depeche Mode ploughed on through thick and thin and expanded their appeal.

The chirpy melodies of Enjoy The Silence, People Are People and Just Can't Get Enough gave over to darker, more gloomy atmospheric classics such as I Feel You, Walking In My Shoes, Condemnation and In Your Room at a time when lead singer Dave Gahan was enduring his own personal crisis (it is a wonder that the guy is still alive, let alone dancing wildly in front of a packed Wembley audience).

The band's latest material, taken from the album Exciter, manages to combine the best of both sounds; with tracks such as I Feel Love reminiscent of I Feel You, and lighter moments such as Dream On recalling the sound of Enjoy The Silence. But while Depeche Mode have certainly never lost sight of the sound which helped to create them, they have moved on and at Wembley it was plain to see just how great and how varied their back catalogue is.

From the moment the band played an instrumental version of recent single, Dream On, to start proceedings, through to Gahan's theatrical arrival, and the hits which followed, the crowd was in a state of euphoria, pausing in between songs to applaud and extoll the virtues of what they had just heard - one fan close to where I was standing was at pains to point out just how "f**cking good'' it was.

And the fans came in all shapes and sizes; from the Goths still getting off on the melancholic sounds of the early Nineties, to the businessmen who had grown up with the band through their changes, to the students keen to revel in the sound of Exciter. They were all there, unified as one.

And for Gahan, in particular, the sweaty masses deserved a show to remember - which is excatly what they got. Starting off with excerpts from Exciter, the band really raised the roof with an astounding version of Walking In My Shoes (a real classic) before mellowing out for a somewhat sedate second section and then a suitably rousing finale.

Guitarist Martin Gore was even allowed to get in on the vocal act, singing three songs by himself (including the memorable Home), although the evening was at its finest in the company of the wild and wacky Gahan. Gone are the demons which threatened to destroy him at the peak of his popularity, replaced instead by a newfound zest for life; so much so that he was often to be found gyrating in front of the adoring front row fans or twirling the microphone above his head.

Such was his passion for the moment that even during the quieter moments, he could not refrain from shouting and screaming, from twirling and jumping to parade his tattoo ridden body to the delight of his adoring public.

Highlights - of which there were many - included classics such as Personal Jesus (a personal favourite!), the oh-so dark I Feel You (when Gahan's voice came into its own), In Your Room (as haunting now, as ever), Black Celebration and the rousing Never Let Me Down Again (extended for the finale), while new tracks, such as the current single Free Love, and the aforementioned Dream On (which was revisited with lyrics) also stood out.

It was just a shame that Gahan chose to let the audience step in for the chorus of Enjoy The Silence instead of completing it himself, as this was who we had come to see. Muscially, the song was terrific, and the extended mix afforded us was also spot on, but it would have been nice to hear Gahan at least once deliver the memorable chorus.

Minor quibbles aside, however, it was hard to be critical. If it was great music you were after, then it was delivered, complete with the spectacle required for such a grand venue. Effective in its simplicity, the various backdrops ranged from shadows of the band, raindrops falling into puddles, or - most tellingly - two goldfish swimming just above a shark. It was the type of juxtaposition which sums up the band's history - a popular choice with the masses, but with an element of danger lying within.

Long may Gahan and co reign and let's hope to see them back on stage again soon. For we fans do not enjoy too much silence from them.