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.

The set itself was very 1960s scifi. The keyboards were embedded in what looked like UFO console stands, and there was a Sputnik-sized “spaceship” to one side of the stage. It was the spaceship that had the words “Sex”, “Pain”, “Angel”, “Love” hardwired into it – and each lit up at different times. It also had LED screens that ran single words or phrases. And when the band took the stage, all it said was just ANGEL.

> Intro
> A Pain That I’m Used To

I love this song. It’s the first off the new album, and it just expresses so much that I’ve been going through lately:

I’m not sure what I’m looking for anymore
I just know that I’m harder to console
I don’t see who I’m trying to be instead of me
But the key is a question of control

All this running around, well it’s getting me down
Just give me a pain that I’m used to
I don’t need to believe all the dreams you conceive
You just need to achieve something that rings true

When this song started though, the backdrop was still up – the Angel feather logo. The band came out, with Martin Gore in an angel-inspired outfit (feathered cap and boots, black T-shirt with small black angel’s wings), playing guitar. Andy Fletcher and Dave Gahan were in matching blazers over black shirts and vests. And they launched right into the song, and the crowd went crazy for it, leaping to their feet and screaming in joy.

> John The Revelator

This is the second song off the new CD, and it’s also one of my favorites. It’s catchy and you can dance to it. Which is exactly what most people did. They danced. You couldn’t help it. It might be a Biblical song – but it wasn’t exactly Christian.

And this is when the video screens came out. The backdrop fell, and the screens came up, fragmented angles and tilted rectangles, and the camera zoomed in on Dave Gahan twirling the microphone stand over his head, and throwing his jacket to the floor, and suddenly – the visual energy came out to match the music.

> A Question Of Time

Corruption and innocence are one of the biggest Depeche Mode themes, but “Question of Time” has always just been another great dance song. This is where Gahan started holding the microphone out and motioning for the crowd to sing, and Martin Gore took off his angel cap and went behind his keyboard.

It’s just a question of time, and it’s running after you. It won’t be long until you’ll do, exactly what they want you to.

> Policy Of Truth
> World In My Eyes

And now we’re getting into the Violator singles. Violator is the singles CD – Personal Jesus, Halo, World In My Eyes. They’re all intense songs, but the overplay has demeaned them a bit, in my eyes. They’ve become period pieces for 1990, classic Top 40 songs, rather than the foreboding and despair that they should have been. It doesn’t mean I won’t scream and yell when I hear the opening notes of “Policy of Truth”, just that they’ve been worn a bit thin.

Still. I want to show you the world in my eyes. That’s all there is, nothing more than you can touch now, that’s all there is. And this was when I noticed the words running across Sputnik: “truth. misery. despair.”

Did I mention that there’s photos up here:
http://archives.depechemode.com/past_tours/touring_the_angel/photos.html

> Precious

This is the single off the new album for a good reason – it’s a fantastic song. It’s also very very sad. Martin Gore wrote it for his children, as he’s going through a divorce. It fits, if you hear the lyrics. And I loved it the minute I heard it, from the first thump of the steady bass line through the sadness and regret in Dave Gahan’s voice. I love the piano chords and the layers and layers of sounds that make up the key changes. And I even liked the video, although it reminded me a bit of “Titanic”

Things get damaged.
Things get broken.

“angel”
“innocent”
“damaged”

> Walking In My Shoes

NOW we’re getting into my favorite album (Songs of Faith & Devotion, for those of you not paying attention). And one of my favorite songs. When I sing the line, “you’d stumble in my footsteps, keep the same appointments I kept,” I mean it. Although I didn’t have a heroin addiction, which is what I know most of SoFaD is about.

Morality would frown upon
Decency look down upon
The scapegoat fate’s made of me
But I promise you, my judge and jurors
My intentions couldn’t have been purer
My case is easy to see

I’m not looking for a clearer conscience
Peace of mind after what I’ve been through
And before we talk of repentance
Try walking in my shoes

> Suffer Well

I like this song. That’s all I have to say about it. Gahan tried to get the audience to sing it, but they didn’t know the words well enough, and Gore had to pick it back up. This is just a great track.

> Damaged People
> Home

Martin Gore came out to sing “Damaged People” and one of the remix versions of “Home” from the Remixed Singles CD. He played his guitar, and sang, in his quiet, earnest manner. Gahan has a degree of Vampire Lestat about him – he takes the devotion, worship, reaction from his audience. Gore seems more to be giving himself to the audience, and always seems almost shy in comparison to his bandmates’ flamboyancy.

> I Want It All
> The Sinner In Me
> I Feel You

After a block of new songs, I was starting to fade a bit. I like the new material, but I don’t have the devotion and attachment to it that I do the old songs. So when “I Feel You” started, I screamed. And I mean screamed. I like “The Sinner In Me” a lot, but I can’t dive into the way I can material I know by heart. And “I Feel You” is one of the best live songs there is. I have listened to the live version on SoFaD live dozens of times. There’s a point where Gahan yells “SING IT!” and the energy on stage and in the crowd goes up to fever pitch. The way the chord changes in the chorus crash during the lines:

Where heaven waits
Those golden gates
And back again
You take me to
And lead me through
Oblivion

It was like an electrical current ran through the stadium. Gore sang the chorus harmonies, and Gahan jumped across the stage, skipping over the microphone stand. This was also the only song that had any other human imagery on screen beyond the band members: a pretty girl, putting on eyeliner. Just the eyes, at first, and then the camera pulled back, and we could see that she was posing for something on a furry rug. This was when the tits that are such a hot topic on DepecheMode.com’s boards were shown.

And this was the first time that the word SEX lit up on Sputnik. But SoFaD is, in my mind, the sex CD, the one I’m most likely to put on if I ever sleep with a like minded individual. And “I Feel You” is the song that most girls say they’d strip to. OK, I say it. If I was stripping, I’d do it to that particular song, because it’s got a perfect beat to it. Step, step, step, step, twirl on pole.

> Behind The Wheel

Give me the keys. I’ll drive.

The only thing that could have made me happier would have been if they’d mixed Route 66 into this. I’ve heard one live version where that happens, a split Behind The Wheel / Route 66 mix, and it’s fantastic. I love, love, love the Depeche Mode cover of Route 66 (“you’ll see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico…”). Behind the Wheel is good. BtW with Rt. 66 would have caused me to swoon in sheer happiness.

Maybe next tour.

> Personal Jesus
> Enjoy The Silence

ONLY Depeche Mode could make Personal Jesus into a prayer revival, and Enjoy the Silence into a singalong. When they launched into Personal Jesus, it did sound like a Baptist revival with the screaming and singing and wailing. And at the end of the song, Gahan stood at the end of the runway that went into the crowd, and held out the microphone and gestured, again and again, as we all chanted, “reach out and touch faith,” again and again.

“REACH OUT AND TOUCH FAITH!”

When asked about the Johnny Cash cover, the band members said how much they admired it. It was reinterpreted, they said, it was very much indicative of Cash’s personality. Then when asked about the Marilyn Manson version, they shrugged. And Andy Fletcher muttered something about it sounding exactly like the original.

“someone to hear your prayers
someone who cares
your own personal jesus
someone to hear your prayers
someone who’s there”

I recognized bits of the “telephone mix” off the Singles box, a sample of a minister saying, “the Lord Jesus Christ himself,”. But I’ve heard a lot of remixes, because I love this song. I’ve sung it at karaoke with more enthusiasm than a Jewish girl should have. I love it because it does remind me of the South, of the Southwest, of places where the harshness of the land pushes people to frenzied religion. And there’s the bass and guitar twangs that bring that image even more to mind, the slap bass and the guitar slide, the electric guitar that makes me think so much of the desert towns by Route 66.

Again and again, thousands of people reached forward, into empty air.
REACH OUT AND TOUCH FAITH!

Then the band went into Enjoy the Silence. And this was the big finale. This was the extended chorus with the solos. The crowd sang every chorus on this song, chanting, “words are very unnecessary, they can only do harm,” to which Gahan replied, “that’s right!” I sang my heart out, dancing about two inches off the floor.

It’s amazing how, in a song played by synthesizers, with only the voice and the guitar lines live, there’s so much intensity, so much urgency, so much energy. Even listening to the recorded live version now makes me want to raise my hands above my head and clap. Gahan started doing just that, clapping his hands over his head, and the whole crowd followed, jumping and clapping in unison while Gore went into a guitar solo that isn’t in the recorded version.

“Words are very unnecessary, they can only do harm.”

And then that was it, and they finished, and bowed, and left the stage. Lights flashed, and went out, and then the crowd screamed until they came back on.

>> Somebody

This was the encore song. Martin Gore came out and played, on his own, for most of it. He was joined by the keyboardist and the drummer, non-regular band members, halfway through. This is an honest song, an earnest song, a song that describes what he wants in a wife. “I want somebody to share, share the rest of my life,” he says. Someone who will support him and discuss current events, “the world in general.” It’s very sweet. I’ve never really liked the song, because, especially right now, it just reminds me, I’d really like somebody who understood me, for once.

> Just Can’t Get Enough

NOTHING gets a crowd moving like “Just Can’t Get Enough”. Even though the lyrics are cheesy as hell, and it’s basically an Erasure song, it still gets the crowd up and going. Bounce, bounce, bounce. “It’s getting harder, it’s a burning love, and I just can’t seem to get enough.” This was a GAP commercial once, and I STILL like it. But that’s also because Dave Gahan uses it to get the crowd jumping and singing again. “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” he says, and we all yell back, “I just can’t get enough!”

“Just like a rainbow, you know you set me free.” Sigh.

> Everything Counts

This is another of my favorite songs, and for a song denouncing capitalism, it sure is danceable:

The handshake, seals the contract
From the contract there’s no turning back
The turning point of a career
A career of being insincere
The holiday was fun packed
The contract still intact

The grabbing hands grab all they can
All for themselves, after all

It’s a competitive world
Everything counts in large amounts

The graph, on the wall
Tells the story of it all
Picture it now, see just how
The lies and deceit gained a little more power
Confidence, taken in
By a sun tan and a grin

The grabbing hands grab all they can
All for themselves, after all

It’s a competitive world
Everything counts in large amounts

Yeah, America, you were taken in by that suntan and that grin. Everything counts in large amounts. And again, the crowd sang the chorus to this, over and over, at the end of the song. Fletch kept playing the keyboard line, and the crowd sang, over and over, “everything counts in large amounts.”

I love this song.

> Never Let Me Down Again

The bass line for this song started, and the crowd lifted back up again. Yes, the song is about heroin. Yes, I can’t hear it without thinking of the Pumpkins version. But it’s such a great song! It’s got that sticky beat to it, like “I Feel You”, and those slightly ironic lyrics.

we’re flying high
watching the world pass us by
never want to come down
never want to put my feet back down on the ground.

That’s actually how I felt about the entire concert. I never wanted to come back down. My feet were still off the ground, two hours later, and I loved it.

Again, DM nerd moment – I recognized a clip of the Aggro Mix in the middle. Which is the remix on the Music for the Masses bonus tracks. Which is a great remix.

never let me down
never let me down,

It’s pleading, but with defiance, the way Gahan sings the line.

> Goodnight Lovers

Just Gore and Gahan, out on the runway, gesturing for us all to calm down and ssh, ssh. Quiet, quiet. This was sung like it was a lullabye, softly, sweetly. This song reminds me of a ballad from the fifties, the way it’s sung, with Gore’s harmonies and the bare instrumentation. It just has a very calming quality, and it was what the crowd needed to go home with. This was also the only song from Exciter on the whole setlist.

It was just an amazing show. I loved every second of it, some seconds more than other. Despite the overly flamboyant moves, I still think that there’s something extremely sexy about Dave Gahan’s performance. I wish I could look him in the eyes during a show, like some of the people down front were able to, just to get shocked by that electrical current that pours out of him during a show. When he yells, “SING IT!”, I lift my voice to the ceiling, and raise my hands along with it. When he throws his head back in ectasy on stage, the band plays even harder, and the crowd screams in appreciation and empathy.

So that was it. And that’s made me happy all day today. It was an amazingly intense experience, one that caught me up and carried me along and deposited me, shaking and ecstatic, on the far side of the two hour performance. Now I just have to figure out how to see the next show and I’m set.

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