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Depeche Mode Takes Brooklyn: Concert Review

Depeche Mode Performing 9/6 - P 2013
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

The Bottom Line

The synth-pop legends remind us why they’re still in the game after three decades -- by working their outsize catalog into an efficient, crowd-baiting set.

Venue

Barclays Center
Brooklyn, NY
(Friday, Sept. 6)

It’s riveting to watch whipped-thin Depeche Mode frontman Dave Gahan, now 51 and totally ripped, work a stage. With his indefatigable mix of twirls and stripper-roebics -- both, with game participation from his mic stand -- the pocket-sized Gahan exudes a natural, if mildly goofy, showmanship.

This, and Depeche Mode’s sprawling résumé of dark synth-pop gems, is why the group has consistently sold-out stadiums and arenas. It’s also why the Mode -- whose pre-EDM command of synths has influenced a wide swath of artists including the Arcade Fire, Shakira, and even new-wave legend Gary Numan -- is the rare act to attract a crowd so compellingly diverse in age and ethnicity. Those over 35 may notice that Gahan’s moves have slowed down a bit, but the singer’s devotion to making fans wave their hands in the air, continues to be nothing short of admirable.

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Did we also mention it’s practically a miracle that Gahan -- who flat-lined for a full two minutes after taking a speedball in 1996 -- is able to walk, much less remember the lyrics to any song? It’s a deliberate move when he discards his leather vest, to deliver the murky, tormented “Barrel of a Gun” shirtless. The single recounts his trip to The Other Side, and here it’s supplemented with unabashed baring-my-soul/welcome-to-the-gun-club effect.

We’ll forgive Gahan for any acts of bravado: He and his partners in sound -- principal songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Martin Gore, and keyboardist Andrew Fletcher -- deserve to congratulate themselves. Because transporting fans to places at once dusky and euphoric is something Gahan and his bandmates have done adeptly for 30-some years now. (Be sure to rewatch their 1989 long-form concert movie Depeche Mode 101 for further evidence/stellar hairdos.)

And let’s face it, most the audience is here for PG -- or pre-guyliner -- Gahan, before he discovered heroin and grunge and the questionable aesthetics of greasy, long hair. Depeche Mode realizes this. (For the record, Gahan is wearing guyliner tonight; it contrasts nicely with Gore’s body glitter.) Though reflective and sonically curious, the group’s pit-stops in Bummerville -- like the slow-start succession of post-Violator compositions “Welcome to My World,” “Angel,” and “Walking in My Shoes,” plus Gore’s lovely cabaret-esque interludes with songs such as “Home” -- beg reminiscence about less mercurial synth-times past. Sure, the curious assortment of video-screen graphics accompanying each cut added entertainment value (think pensive dogs, contorted nude models, lots of triangles, artful quick-edits of real-time footage). But the band proved judicious by peppering crowd-riling oldies such as “Black Celebration” and “Just Can’t Get Enough” into the stop-and-start setlist.

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The climax: a mini-mixtape of classics that kicked-off with the upbeat sing-along “A Question of Time,” flash-forwarded to a sprawling “Enjoy the Silence,” and exploded into a swaggering “Personal Jesus.” Wisely, Depeche Mode ended on the expansive fan-favorite “Never Let Me Down Again.”

That some fans were left asking, “What about ‘Strangelove’?” “What about ‘Master and Servant’?” “What about ‘Stripped’?” -- only underscores the sheer breadth of catalog that Depeche Mode is working with. And sometimes, we learned, that can be a mixed blessing.

Set List:

Welcome to My World
Angel
Walking in My Shoes
Precious
Black Celebration
Policy of Truth
Should Be Higher
Barrel of a Gun
The Child Inside
But Not Tonight
Heaven
Soothe My Soul
A Pain That I’m Used To
A Question of Time
Enjoy the Silence
Personal Jesus

Encore:

Home
Halo
Just Can’t Get Enough
I Feel You
Never Let Me Down Again

Twitter: @nishagopalan