Depeche Mode Play Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Throw Black Celebration for Faithfully Devoted
As far as intros go, ‘Welcome to My World’ was neat but redundant, a red carpet rolled down your own front steps. Taking the stage Friday night (Sept. 6) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., Depeche Mode faced an arena full of people whose average age hovered well north of 30, and whose faith in and devotion to these broody-sexy U.K. synth-pop lifers spans decades.
The Mode’s world is familiar, well explored, hardly their own. Singer Dave Gahan — still the tattooed, glitter-doused electro Elvis he’s always been — has gone places and done things unthinkable to most fans. But it’s all there in the songs, written with somber elegance by partner and musical mastermind Martin Gore, and in that sense, he’s never really been alone.
Depeche Mode know where they stand with their audience, and Friday night at the Barclays, they opened the show as they have throughout this latest tour, following ‘Welcome to My World’ with ‘Angel,’ another song from ‘Delta Machine,’ released earlier this year to a critical reaction perhaps best described as relieved. Their 13th studio set is a good record, and these two tracks are solid if not stunning. As show kickoffs, they’d be risky for anyone but the Mode, but Gahan, Gore and silent third member Andy Fletcher have ‘Walking In My Shoes’ cued up next, so a big reaction is just around the corner.
So comfortable are the Mode that they pair ‘Precious,’ from 2005’s ‘Playing the Angel,’ with an ill-conceived video starring a bunch of dogs. Depeche Mode are supposed to be about sex and sin and leather pants, not cuddly puppies. And yet Barclays fans hung with them, enthusiastic but not quite ecstatic as the band pushed dutifully through the latter-day single. For all his shimmying and gyrating, Gahan couldn’t mask Depeche Mode’s workmanlike approach to much of the set, and more than two decades after they emerged as unlikely stadium gods, they’ve learned how to rock a big room without expending too much energy.
The video accompanying ‘Enjoy the Silence,’ one of their smash hits from the ‘Violator‘ album, features female contortionists smushed up against a glass wall, and that, like the laughable doggie clip, went over just fine. Words are very unnecessary, and the same apparently goes for kind of innovative audio-visual displays the Mode used to roll out for these global arena treks.
The focus these days is the songs — old and new — and after closing with ‘Personal Jesus,’ their other ‘Violator’ chartbuster, they returned for an encore that included the early bubblegum hit ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ (incongruous but always totally welcome) and a slowed-down, holy-rolling ‘Halo.’
They closed with ‘Never Let Me Down Again,’ a late-’80s classic they might have opened with. Going to see Depeche Mode these days is like taking a ride with your best friends and hoping they don’t disappoint you. By making good on their end of the unspoken bargain — “You suspend some disbelief, we’ll give you a black celebration no one else can deliver” — they’ve yet to really go wrong.