Depeche Mode sells out Center, as L.A. declares Depeche Mode Day

By Dana Benson 

The L.A. City Council, led by Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, recently passed a resolution declaring December 13th "Depeche Mode Day L.A." Band members Martin Gore and Dave Gahan, Councilwoman Rodriguez, and a thousand or so fans met on the steps of City Hall last week as Depeche Mode thanked Angelenos for their loyal support. KROQ was instrumental in introducing them to Los Angeles., and L.A. fans helped them break into the U.S. market.

"Depeche Mode Day L.A." was sandwiched between four sold-out shows at the Kia Forum and the Arena. The band is touring to promote their new album "Momento Mori," a Latin phrase that translates to "Remember you must die."

I attended the December 17 Arena show. Scottish band Young Fathers opened. As says: "Psychedelic soul, post-punk, and left-field strains of hip-hop and pop account for only some of the styles that swim through Young Fathers' dense and fiery sound." Check out Young Fathers online.

Most of Depeche Mode's "Momento Mori" was written during the Covid lockdown by Martin Gore with the help of Richard Butler, lead singer of the Psychedelic Furs. Gore was about to send the song demos to the rest of the band when founding member Andy Fletcher died of a ruptured aorta (May 2022).

Gore and Fletcher had been best friends since grade school. It was usually Fletcher who found the compromises that pulled Depeche Mode back together when Gore and Gahan had conflicts. Working through their grief, Gore and Gahan started recording "Momento Mori," six weeks after Fletcher's death. As Gore mentioned in interviews, it was painful to be asked over and over about the death of his friend by reporters.

Depeche Mode has always been preoccupied with mortality and the meaning of life. On this album, they dwell on death more than usual. They played new songs, including "My Cosmos is Mine," "Wagging Tongue," "Ghosts Again," along with many old favorites: "Policy of Truth," "Everything Counts," "Enjoy the Silence," "Never Let Me Down Again," "Just Can't Get Enough," "Stripped," "Personal Jesus," and fifteen other classics. The complete setlist is below.

Fletcher was replaced on keyboards and bass by Peter Gordeno. Christian Eigner, long-time Depeche Mode touring member, played live drums. The sound was excellent. The synths meshed with the drums, the vocals, and the guitars. Every sound had its place in the mix. Nothing was out of balance. Gore and Gahan's voices were superb; their harmonies beautiful.

At one point they came out into the audience on the sixty-foot stage extension and sang a duet. Afterwards they smiled and bowed to each other. It seemed like there was more love and respect expressed between them than I have observed in the past.

Anton Corbijn, Dutch filmmaker and videographer, has done Depeche Mode's concert light spaces and videos since 1986 (along with U2's). Depeche performed in front of a custom-designed twenty-six-foot-high LED letter M (standing for "Momento Mori.") The M displayed independent images and integrated with the larger projection screen behind it. The visuals were stunning.

Gahan leaped around the stage, always moving, pirouetting like a ballet dancer, and spinning in dizzying circles like a Sufi mystic. He added soul, seduction, and drama; amplifying the infectious melodies while offering a "dance the blues away" counterpoint to the band's often melancholy lyrics.  

A black and white video projected on the screens for the new single "Ghosts Again" featured Gore and Gahan in robes walking and crawling through graveyards and other spooky places until they sat down in front of a gigantic chess board and started moving pieces, like the scene from Ingmar Bergman's movie The Seventh Seal, where a knight plays a game of chess with Death during a plague. Given Fletcher's death, I wondered who would be the next to go, Gore or Gahan.

The song "World in My Eyes" was dedicated to Fletcher and featured a huge black and white image of his face on the screen. Another striking image was a color video of a Mexican man loading sand onto the backs of burros as they wandered aimlessly around a beach. I took the image as a metaphor for the meaninglessness of much of our existence.

In the middle of the show, Gahan spotted a girl named Martha holding a sign that said, "Depeche Mode: It's my Birthday."  The band and the crowd sang her happy birthday. Then  Gore soloed while Gahan took a break. He performed powerful versions of "But Not Tonight" and "Home." In a 2017 New York Times Interview (on Utube) Gahan said he had thought "Home" was about having safe place in the world to rest until Gore explained to him that going home meant dying and finding peace. Below is the chorus from "Home":

And I thank you
For bringing me here
For showing me home
For singing these tears
Finally, I've found
That I belong here

I think this is part of what makes Depeche Mode's simple yet complex melodies and lyrics so universal. The lyrics are ambiguous enough that as our moods shift, what we feel from them changes, but we still feel something. The words and music penetrate our preoccupations and unlock different meanings than they may have in the past.

All music works that way, but Depeche Mode are obviously unusually gifted at doing it (they have sold one hundred million albums).  Gahan talked about this quality of Gore's songs in a 2017 New York interview when he said: "Martin's songs change for me constantly, from tour to tour, Martin's songs are about real life, truthful real life."

In the forward to his 2003 book, Stripped: Depeche Mode, author Jonathan Miller quotes musician Thomas Dolby on Depeche Mode:

"When a Depeche Mode song comes on the radio, I know instantly its them-even if it's a brand-new release or an obscure album cut I've never heard before. Even in the overcrowded world of electronic music, where we all have more or less the same tools at our disposal, Depeche Mode constantly stands out. They just have a sound that's completely unique, and hard to put your finger on..."

Below is the setlist from the Sunday Dec. 17, 2023 show. Depeche Mode will start touring Europe in the spring.

"My Cosmos Is Mine" "Wagging Tongue" "Walking in My Shoes" "It's No Good"
"Policy of Truth"
In Your Room(Zephyr Mix)"
"Everything Counts"
"My Favorite Stranger"
"But Not Tonight"
"Ghosts Again"
"I Feel You"
"A Pain That I'm Used To"
"World in My Eyes"
"Black Celebration"
"John the Revelator"
"Enjoy the Silence"

Encore: "Waiting for the Night"
"Just Can't Get Enough" "Never Let Me Down Again"
"Personal Jesus"

Posted By DH Magazine on December 27, 2023 01:58 am | Permalink