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Depeche Mode In Concert

Music for Molasses

By Erik Blankinship

staff writer

Depeche Mode Exciter Tour

Tweeter Center for the Performing Arts

July 1st

Depeche Mode sounded pretty avant-garde back in ninth grade. Music for the Masses was techno enough not to be mistaken for mainstream pop, and the British accents were strong enough to be cool. But some combination of the band’s weak live performances, limited thematic range (biblical guilt, statutory lust, greed), and being older than fifteen ended my love affair with Depeche Mode.

I remember from high school the unwritten rule that you wear as much black as you can to a Depeche Mode concert. Of course, other requisite wear are Cure and Morrissey shirts. Low and behold, arriving at the July 1st show at the Tweeter Center were all of the expected costumes.

When I heard about the tour for their latest album Exciter, I was baffled -- they’re still around? Wasn’t Violator the end of them? Oh yeah, there was Ultra, but who listened to that?

The show at the Tweeter Center began pretty strongly with some of their new tracks. Lead singer David Gahan has learned to do more than spin in circles. Now he shakes his ass at the audience -- a lot -- and runs around the stage with the microphone stand. It’s as if someone let him in on the secret that he’s a rock star, allowing him to perform as such.

But despite Gahan’s stronger stage presence, the show wasn’t at all personable. The audience received a mere “How are you doing Boston?” and a “Thank you Boston!” -- despite the fact that the Tweeter Center is somewhere off of Interstate 95, closer to Providence than to Faneuil Hall. It was like listening to someone do Mad Libs. How about a little conversation with the crowd, David? Something a little more than just following the script?

But Depeche Mode can’t do that. They did not even play instruments for most of the show. Sound effects, like the sampled breathing in “Personal Jesus,” would just begin, and Gahan would just sing along. Guitarist Martin Gore would strum a chord repeatedly when required. There was a drummer at the show -- although it didn’t look like he played every song. It seemed as though everyone was accompanying a cued tape.

Adding to the McConcert feeling of the show were cued films that played on a giant screen. The most ridiculous sequence was a goldfish swimming alone, and with the accompaniment of a heavy bass chord, a giant shark entered the screen as well. Ooh, thematic! Swim away little virgin goldfish!

Martin Gore did do a small acoustic guitar set of some country-sounding songs. No one seemed to know what they were, but they were nice. It was especially nice to know where the music was coming from.

But my heart has not entirely hardened. l admit it -- the twinkling instrumentation of “Waiting For The Night” struck a sentimental side. Some of the fun was just knowing how the songs would sound, even down to synthesized voice echoes.

“Clean” was also fun to hear again, especially with Gahan’s low, groveling voice. Songs like “Halo” had Gahan reminding us that we all wear guilt like shackles on our feet. Once upon a high-school eve, Depeche Mode’s lyrics did seem to hold some importance, but seeing the old guy up there spewing out the same agonized words was just silly this time around. Especially when Gahan seemed to be having so much fun. “I Feel You Walking In My Shoes” had the same sense of hollow importance. At one point Gahan actually picked up the microphone stand and used it as a phallic extension.

Still, the show was entertaining. Every mid-twenties geezer should go see a “best of Depeche Mode” show, if only to find that you still know nearly all of the lyrics to “Enjoy The Silence” and “Black Celebration.” You might even get a chance, since Gahan ended with a “see you next time ... Boston!”