Traffic was backed up for miles. People were hiking long distances, uphill, to avoid both fighting the last mile of the traffic and paying premier prices for stacked parking. Dozens of scalpers solicited concertgoers to buy and sell extra tickets for Depeche Mode’s concert. This was to be the first of the band’s four sold out dates at The Hollywood Bowl, on their tour supporting their new album Spirit.
The album title is suitable considering the degree to which some fans rarely ceased their intensely passionate wailing throughout the evening. Lovers, old and young, embraced one another and alternately swayed and ground their faces together to the live strains of nostalgic music. As for the actual show, it was nothing short of great.
The two hour show featured a handful of songs from the new album and a rich tapestry of songs from throughout the band’s 37 year career. DM opened the show with powerful performances of “Going Backwards” and “So Much Love” from their new album. In addition to blasting the audience with their powerful presence and stage show (featuring captivating film projections), the choice of the two opening numbers showcased the band’s aggressive attitude towards the turbulent clusterfuck in which much of the Western World currently resides.
Despite the opening of the show, one didn’t have to care too much about contemporary topics to enjoy the evening. After half a dozen songs, the set arrived at “World in my Eyes,” for which the large monitors prominently featured lead singer Dave Gahan groping his crotch. Following that was “Cover Me,” which was performed with the backdrop of the new song’s music video and involved Gahan venturing into the audience for the final verse, which concluded with the line “I pictured us in another life / where we’re all superstars.” Next up was “A Question of Lust,” which was one of a handful of the set’s tunes sang by the band’s lead songwriter and guitarist Martin Gore. For each of the songs Gore crooned, the massive crowd at the Bowl reverently joined in and held aloft lighters and flashlights.
The band is clearly still on top of their game. With great performances like these, the crowds throughout the tour will surely get their fill. Still, as magical as it is to see the band perform golden oldies like “Enjoy the Silence” with a surreal backing film depicting various animals in brilliantly colored lighting, it is also a bit disenchanting to experience a great new (and highly relevant) song like “Where’s the Revolution?” receiving a comparatively luke-warm reception. It’s not like the new material doesn’t resonate with vibrant musicality (including great synth work by the band’s third core member, Andy Fletcher — let’s not forget him); perhaps the overt call-to-action is more than the squealers and love birds want. When the song ended with the lyrics “Where’s the revolution / Come on, people / You’re letting me down,” the irony was sad.