Not so long ago, I was lamenting that I would miss the 2013 "Delta Machine" tour for my favorite band, Depeche Mode. For some unfathomable reason, they decided to skip Seattle this time. Fortunately, Certifiable Princess saw my agony and mentioned that they would be playing in Tampa on September 14th! One very, very cheap airline ticket later plus a few thousand hotel points, and here I am!
As expected, the concert was amazing... C.P. and her husband thought so too. DM played a terrific mix of new tracks and old favorites, and backed it up with an Anton Corbijn stage show that was pretty cool (if less elaborate than what we've seen in the past).
Delta Machine is a fairly dark album that has a heavy industrial-style sound to it. I enjoyed it well enough, but it's just not the same Depeche Mode that made me such a huge fan. And though I wish they had played more classic stuff, it was still a great show that was easily worth the effort it took to get here...
- Welcome to My World (Delta Machine). It was a good taste of things to come as an opener on their current album, and an equally appropriate opener to the show. Distinctly Depeche Mode in many ways, but not quite the sound you expect from them.
- Angel (Delta Machine). One of my least favorite tracks off the album. It's an uneven blend of industrial grunge and blues that comes off as an incohesive mess.
- Walking in My Shoes (Songs of Faith and Devotion). A track off of one of my favorite DM albums, performed flawlessly. I was surprised how popular the song was with the crowd... many of whom were singing along.
- Precious (Playing the Angel). The single released in advance of the album was absolutely beautiful, and made me anticipate Playing the Angel quite a lot. But then they did something I hate... put a different version on the album. Lucky for me, the version they performed tonight was closer to the original, and sounded amazing.
- Black Celebration (Black Celebration). The title track off of Depeche Mode's fifth album is a fantastic live track, and they were very true to the sound of the original... the addition of the live drum kit to the song tonight really helped elevate it to new heights.
- Policy of Truth (Violator). A hallmark DM song that I was very happy to have included in the set. They went a little more "rock" with it for the stage show, which was fine, but it did make me want to revisit the original to hear it as I remember it.
- Should Be Higher (Delta Machine). One of the more "Depeche-like" songs off the new album, it played pretty well to the crowd. I think this was one of the few Delta Machine tracks I was glad to hear.
- Barrel of a Gun (Ultra). This was the first single from the album that redefined the band's sound, and it was a direction I embraced at the time. Looking back, I realize that this was more of a transition album than I could have fathomed, as everything kind of spiraled from there to where we are today. In retrospect, I wish the band would have spent a little more time in the Songs of Faith and Devotion era (which would be rough without Adam Wilder), but there's no denying this was a great song.
- The Child Inside (Delta Machine). Holy crap I hate this song, and I was very surprised they included it for the tour. It's just so bad... both lyrically and musically. Apparently everybody else in the crowd felt the same way, because they entire amphitheater went completely dead. I've never seen people drop to their seats so fast.
- But Not Tonight (Black Celebration). A song I like very much performed differently than I'm used to, but very good nevertheless.
- Heaven (Delta Machine). It's a very nice song, but so plodding and slow that it really drug down the show. I don't know where they could have stuck it so that it would have worked, so maybe this was as good a place as any.
- Soothe My Soul (Delta Machine). I did not like this song on the album at all, but admit that it worked very well live... maybe they sped it up and worked it harder than on the album?
- A Pain That I'm Used To (Playing the Angel). This is a bizarre remix of a song that I like very much... I can't quit pull it out, but it sounds like they jammed in parts of John the Revelator and Steve Miller's Abracadabra. Not horrible, but boy do I wish they had stuck to the original.
- A Question of Time (Black Celebration). I usually hate it when a really good pop song is deflated to some lame acoustic interpretation, but Martin Gore did a pretty good job with the track despite it all. But why, oh why, couldn't we have gotten the original version of the song since they went to the trouble of including it in the show? Why? SUCH a great song as it was originally released.
- Enjoy the Silence (Violator). Probably the band's most famous song... accompanied by female contortionists molded into the shapes of the triangular screens behind the stage. It was weird. It was uncomfortable. And oddly beautiful. Just like the song.
- Personal Jesus (Violator). An equally popular Depeche Mode favorite, it flowed perfectly off the previous song and had the crowd singing along. I may be mistaken, but in previous shows I remember it being played much stronger and harder... this time it was backed down a bit, matching the tone of the album. Even so, it was a great track to end the main set with.
- Encore: Home (Violator). Okay, now this acoustic interpretation I did not like because the beautiful, textured, haunting score from the original is just so amazing. But, even acoustic, it's hard to deny that it's a beautiful song. Audience participation was pretty cool, as everybody kept singing after Martin had finished.
- Encore: Halo (Violator). The guy sitting next to me was excited they performed this Goldfrapp Remix version over the original... and it was an awesome take on a great Depeche Mode song, so I was happy to hear something old made new... however...
- Encore: Just Can't Get Enough (Speak & Spell). Ah yes. What DM concert would be complete without this track from their very first album? Kind of a tradition now, I think, which is nice thing for Vince Clarke, since he'll keep having the royalty checks coming in! Yes, it's been drug through commercial hell, appearing in advertisements and promotions, but it's still one of my favorite DM songs, and I never get tired of hearing it. There seemed to be a heavier synth vibe this performance, which I really liked... enough that it has me hoping they re-record it one day.
- Encore: I Feel You (Songs of Faith and Devotion). It made me very happy to hear another track off my favorite Depeche Mode album! Again, I was surprised at how much the crowd was into this song. I guess more people than I thought are into Songs of Faith and Devotion but, then again, this is such an incredible song that it would have fans no matter where it came from. Would have been nice if they had drug out my most beloved DM song of all time from that album, Mercy in You, but this was close enough.
- Encore: Never Let Me Down Again (Music for the Masses). I would have a hard time choosing just one song from the brilliant Music for the Masses to play on tour... Stripped? Nothing? Strangelove? Behind the Wheel? I mean, seriously, there's not a misstep on the entire album (probably why their live 101 album which supported it is such a classic). Fortunately, I didn't have to, and Never Let Me Down Again ended up being the perfect choice to close out the show.
Despite my pining away for more of their older material, this was an epic concert. Depeche Mode sound every bit as good now as they did 30 years ago, and remain one of the best live bands I've ever seen (with Matt & Kim being a close second). So long as they keep performing this well, the band is in no danger of losing me as a fan, regardless of where they go with their music.
That being said, can we please go in a slightly different direction on the next album? All these songs about heaven, angels, redemption, addiction, and salvation have really been played out now, and it's time to move on. I really, really don't want to have to suffer through another version of The Child Inside.