Depeche Mode At Sleep Train Amphitheatre
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By Jamie Harvey
Chula Vista, Calif.
There was a cool breeze as the sun went down at the Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, Calif., on Sept. 22, the day after the autumnal equinox. Canadian electronic duo Crystal Castles opened the evening in the light and ended in the darkness, as their bleak, dance-worthy beats filled with video game motifs provided the perfect soundtrack.
As I glanced across the sold-out crowd, I noticed married couples, single ladies, fans in buttoned-up shirts and fans in platform boots, all of which attested to Depeche Mode's wide appeal. For a band nearly impossible to categorize, they have consistently created music that bridges the gap between dark and light, and hard and soft. The lights went down and bass pulsated through the venue as the band walked onstage and launched into "Welcome To My World" and then "Angel," from 2013's Delta Machine. Led by frontman Dave Gahan — an artist with the golden voice of Leonard Cohen and the whirling dervish moves of Michael Jackson — I was immediately taken into their world. For "Walking In My Shoes," Gahan strutted across stage as he preached the lyrics to us.
A large screen behind the band displayed vibrant and bold video pieces for each song, mixed with a live performance feed of the band, created by photographer/director Anton Corbijn. "Precious" took on new meaning as a series of beautiful dogs were shown onscreen and their sad eyes reflected the lyrics. "Black Celebration" featured UFO-esque light panels that descended from the ceiling as Gahan tantalized the women in the crowd as my friend rightly squealed in my ear. "Policy Of Truth" sent me straight into my favorite Depeche Mode album, 1990's Violator. One of the highlights of the evening for me was "Barrel Of A Gun," during which Martin Gore's atypical guitar skills shined as he played his signature star-shaped instrument.
"But Not Tonight" was the first of a few songs on which Gore sang and played solo while the rest of the band took a break. Dressed in what could best be described as "glitter grunge" — shiny plaid pants and a silver vest — he looked like a raver cherub as all eyes focused on him. The beautiful and emotional newer song "Heaven," which perfectly showcases the band's evolution and maturation, transported us to that warm, dark place in our souls, but perhaps with a different vehicle than it did in the '80s.
"Personal Jesus" was given new life as a slow, acoustic start introduced everyone's favorite dance-club song as the crowd, with arms outstretched, helped Gahan "reach out and touch faith." A remixed version of "Halo" dominated the encore, before the final two songs served as the cherry on top of the icing on an already delicious cake. The grinding rhythm of "I Feel You" was what first drew me into Depeche Mode, and in a live setting it infected me just as it did the first time I heard it.
As the hypnotic beats, sensual synths and Gahan's velvet voice combined for a final song, we had our last dance before heading back into the real world.
To catch Depeche Mode in a city near you, click here for tour dates.
"Welcome To My World"
"Walking In My Shoes"
"Policy Of Truth"
"Should Be Higher"
"Barrel Of A Gun"
"The Child Inside"
"But Not Tonight" (acoustic, performed by Martin Gore)
"Soothe My Soul"
"A Pain That I'm Used To" (Jacques Lu Cont remix)
"A Question Of Time"
"Enjoy The Silence"
"Halo" ('Goldfrapp remix)
"Just Can't Get Enough"
"I Feel You"
"Never Let Me Down Again"
(Jamie Harvey lives in Los Angeles and is the rock community blogger for GRAMMY.com. She has attended and written about more than 500 shows since 2007. You can follow her musical adventures at www.hardrockchick.com.)