In 1989, Depeche Mode came to Detroit to hang out with Derrick May and Juan Atkins, having heard that the duo had been mixing the band’s songs into their sets at clubs like the Music Institute. David Gahan, Martin Gore and the boys tentatively ventured over from Essex, on the outskirts of London, no idea what they would find. This is Detroit, after all. What would they want with a bunch of synth-pop limeys?
Whaddaya know, the band was mobbed by an adoring city public. “It was quite strange,” keyboardist Andy Fletcher told the Free Press. “We were just mobbed by beautiful black people, young girls and boys. It was kind of weird — we always thought we were the whitest of the white. But I think the way we made music was in a similar vein to the way they made music.” That love affair has endured to this very day.
Walking into the DTE just as Depeche Mode was getting started, there’s an almost creepy vibe to the place. All eyes are forward. “No shit,” you’re thinking. "The band is playing." But often, at a big show like this, people will be hucking it up, chatting through the songs they don’t know so well, that sort of thing. This didn’t feel like that. This was more like, there’s a cult leader on stage who will tell you the secrets of salvation. Don’t miss a damned word, don’t blink.
Gahan had the entire crowd mesmerized, which could have something to do with his butt. The dude gyrated it, both clockwise and anti-clockwise, and that might be his secret. It was like a hypnotist moving a pocket watch from side to side. Once you were locked on, you were screwed. Then he would turn around and continue with the song.
The band has also aged well, perhaps surprisingly well. Gahan is naturally the center of attention, looking like Social Distortion’s Mike Ness and moving like Freddie Mercury. The oft-dark nature of Depeche Mode’s music creates the image of a front man who is more than a little pervy. An S&M Iggy with a new romantic cushion. Martin Gore, who sings some of the sweeter tunes, is comfortable when front and center but he’s no showman. He stands, humbly accepting the substantial applause, belts out a tune, then makes way for Gahan again. The two have been at war in the past, now they seem delighted to be around each other.
Special mention also has to go to the visual show on the big screen at the back of the stage. One minute there was a dude playing with fire and crazy sparks, the next there was, ummm, a bunch of dogs. Best of all were the giant women pushed up against glass. Creepy as hell.
Most of everything you’d want to hear was aired during the two-hour show, though this is a band with 33 years behind it, and a lot of great material. Everybody will be disappointed by the omission of something (there was no “Somebody” – get your act together Gore, that song was on the mix tape this writer gave to his wife).
You have to go in with no expectations, kind of like a Dylan or Bowie show. If you go with a definite idea of what you want to see, you’ll likely feel let down. Go and let the artist do their thing, just soak it up, and it’ll all be good. And still, the band played “Enjoy the Silence,” “Walking in My Shoes,” “Barrel of a Gun,” “Personal Jesus,” “Just Can’t Get Enough,” “I Feel You,” and so much more. (Setlist)
There were people at the DTE on Thursday that had waited at least 20 years to see Depeche Mode. By the end, the band’s enduring, passionate affair with Detroit was only burning brighter.Follow @City_Slang