Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Depeche Mode at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Although they're among my all-time favorite bands, Sunday evening's concert was the first time I had seen Depeche Mode live in 16 years. (I don't do a lot of concerts...)

A band that has been around as long as Depeche Mode (37 years!) always faces a dilemma when they tour to support their latest album in that they need to strike a balance between the new material that they want to promote and the older material that their fans really want to hear. The Generation-X-centric crowd at the Pavilion clearly wanted to hear the older stuff.

The view from the lawn at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
To that end, the band provided, reaching back as far as 1983 with "Everything Counts," playing two songs off of 1984's Black Celebration ("A Question of Lust," "Stripped"), three songs from 1990's Violator ("World In My Eyes," "Enjoy the Silence," "Personal Jesus"), three songs from 1993's Songs of Faith and Devotion ("In Your Room," Walking In My Shoes," "I Feel You"), and one song apiece from 1984's Some Great Reward and 1987's Music For the Masses ("Somebody" and "Never Let Me Down Again," respectively).

They balanced this out with five songs from their "newer" albums (which I consider to be anything from 1997 onward, after Alan Wilder left the band), five songs from their latest album (note to self: listen to new album before going to concert promoting said album), and an excellent cover of David Bowie's "Heroes." Dave Gahan, who is pretty spry for being 55 years old, handled most of the singing duties and did a great job interacting with the crowd and moving about the stage as he did so. He handed vocal duties over to Martin L. Gore for a handful of songs, including "Home" (off of 1997's Ultra).

Martin L. Gore provides a heartfelt rendition of "Somebody"
Of course, there are only so many songs that can be fit into a two-hour set. This meant that several iconic Depeche Mode songs I (and many of those around me) would have liked to have heard - "Master and Servant," "Blasphemous Rumours," "People are People," "But Not Tonight," "Strangelove," "A Policy of Truth," etc., - didn't make the setlist. That just goes back to the previously-referenced dilemma faced by long-lived bands with deep back catalogues like Depeche Mode: you're not going to be able to play everything everyone wants to hear.

This isn't to say I was disappointed; to the contrary, I had a great time, and I introduced my girlfriend, who was aware of only a handful of Depeche Mode's more famous older songs, to a sound I've enjoyed since I was in middle school.

This was the first time I watched a concert at CWMP from the lawn. (Like I said, I don't do a lot of concerts.) My decision to purchase a pair of cheap but functional binoculars from Academy right before the concert turned out to be a good one. Unfortunately, they could only do so much to cut through the haze of marijuana smoke that persisted throughout the concert. I get that Depeche Mode is the kind of music that lends itself to being listened to while stoned, but at times it looked (and smelled) like a freakin' Grateful Dead concert up there!

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