Get the picture?
This, coupled with a still remarkably strange new trend of having Concerts digitally projected in movie theatres could potentially have made for an excellent evening. Having seen Depeche Mode in concert twice, and being married to someone who has seen them... uh... around 80 times... This wasn't one we wanted to pass up. Yes, I do still go to concerts with my family... This one being in a Regal Cinema pretty much meant I'd get slithely less drunk. Or, sadly, not at all. I drove.
The difference between this and a "regular concert" was lost on a great many other people in the theatre however. I'm not sure if these corn-eating soda-douches quite understand the fact that the "Two Way Screen" hadn't been invented yet. From trained seals applauding in the audience (I'm sure the projector was flattered as hell) to the repeated squeals of now grown and fat former teeny-boppers screaming "I LOVE YOU DAVE!" I had to wonder who the hell they thought would be hearing them besides The World's Greatest Critic and his family. I wonder... are they... are they hearing voices right now? It's not mine is it? Creepy.
But I kid. The truth is, it was almost impossible not to get into this show, Big Screen performance or not. Sure it would have been better live (I should know), but I found myself getting exponentially more excited as the evening progressed. The show started with a "Behind the Scenes" Tour documentary, which gave a few of what could have been considered "Spoilers" for the show to come, but hey, that's cool.
Having not only one of the best sounds in Live shows today, but also one of the best visual sets you can watch, this was no mere taped bland-angle variety show concert, but a psychedelic exploration of the music. Tastefully added animations, distorted colors and interesting camera angles enhanced both the music (which, yes, can, and should, stand on its own) and the Anton Corbijn-created stage set. Director Blue Leach stepped up and delivered for this show, filmed over two nights in February of 2006. The only thing that could have made the whole thing better would have been to show up in Milan our damned selves. We... uh... didn't.
Beginning with the distorted sounds of "Dead of Night" (just the intro), Depeche Mode hit the stage for their loud set with the same energy they've brought for decades. Dave Gahan in his Leather Pants and Ken-Doll removable vest, Andrew Fletcher looking like Andrew Fletcher still... with maybe a hint of Max Headroom in the mix, and Martin Gore walking out dressed in black with black feathered angel wings strapped to his back and a knit faux-Mohawk hat. Ah, the joys of being rich, famous and married. One day, I'll be sitting here writing reviews dressed like Creegan from Cleopatra 2525 or something. Okay... okay, yeah, I already am. Also joining the band were the returning tour dudes Peter Gordeno on Keyboards and Christian Eigner on drums. Neither dressed like either Martin or I. Strangely, this tour, supporting the recent album "Playing the Angel", did not include the common female soul backing vocalists. This removed a fuller level to the vocals, only to be replaced by the guys in the band themselves. I only really noticed because... well, I'm always looking for boobs and didn't see any.
Depeche Mode didn't only dwell on their old songs, by any means. True, the hits were there, but Songs from Playing the Angel were given logical and paramount featured spots in the set. "John the Revelator" sounded incredible live, as did "A Pain That I'm Used To". Surprisingly a current hit (and a great feature in this show) was not written by Martin. I'm talking about "Suffer Well", which was written by Gahan and Eigner (with Andrew Phillpott). Hell of an album, Playing the Angel... or... uh... Heaven of an album.
Primarily (and obviously) the remainder of the set consisted of Martin songs (it should be noted that, for such a prolific writer, all the songs he does on his solo records are cover tunes). "Policy of Truth" from the Violator album evoked the best baritone from Gahan, while "Walking in my Shoes" from Songs of Faith and Devotion continued that dark (yet somehow uplifting and moral) motif.
Toward the middle of the show, Martin did his thing, taking over lead vocals (Blue Leach's directing showed Dave not relaxing, but jamming as a devoted audience member at stage left). Folks, welcome to possibly my favorite part of any Depeche Mode live show... "Home". Martin bounced in place as is his wont with that guitar in preparation, then aced one of his greatest songs at the top of his alto lungs. The synth strings perfectly complimented the leads he threw over them, as well as his amplified "I-yi-yi-yi-yi" thrown into just the right places. The song is truly one of the definitive "Tremendous" songs of rock history.
The energy continued as Dave Gahan returned to the stage. Good thing the guy is in great shape because he wears less every song. Sheesh. Ripping out one of their best rockers in the form of "I Feel You" (with the gospel-inspired backing vocals performed by Martin, Peter and Fletch, not the ladies), Gahan rose to new, near-screaming operatic Heights that fed the remainder of the performance. "I Feel You" gave way to "Behind the Wheel", which gave way to the great favorite "World in My Eyes" before slamming with full on distorted driving guitar into "Personal Jesus". The more-keyboard driven megahit "Enjoy the Silence" followed, belying its name with an uproarious thundering sing-along!
For such a focus on the more rock-inspired tunes (read: The ones with Martin on Guitar, not keyboards), it was noteworthy to hear that their first big hit (the Vince Clarke-penned) "Just Can't Get Enough" made it into the set list. While for all appearances, the dudes were loving playing the song, it was a bit of a square peg on a round stage, and Dave even declared "This one's for you!" to the audience.
Dave Gahan... regardless of facial hair or hair length, is a great singer. A great, well trained fantastic singer. No, I'm not trying to flatter the man, I'm trying to point out that Joey Fat-Butt of the local 551st Union of Ditch Diggers is most likely NOT a great, well trained, fantastic singer... or else we'd be watching his beer gut rolling around on stage instead of Dave's, and he wouldn't need to be a part of the damned Ditch Digging Union! My point? We're in a theatre, kids, the music isn't loud enough to drown out your voice. I don't care how much you THINK you can sound like Dave Gahan during "Everything Counts", here's news for you and your forlorn and flattened seat cushion: You Can't. Shut Up!
Personally, I can sing, and was polite enough not to. I'm also a hell of a lot thinner than I once was, and still impose a pretty fearful silhouette... so one malignant glance from the six-footh-three-inch monster-critic helped the morons surrounding us shut the bloody hell up before "Never Let Me Down Again" hit in all its glory. A great rock song, and a combination of many of the styles Depeche Mode has perfected over the years, it's kick ass to hear Dave and Martin sharing the vocal duties of this classic.
"Good Night Lovers" closed the set, leaving the ex-boppers screaming for an Encore. Now, I know, I'd love an Encore too, but girls, girls, girls, THEY CAN'T HEAR YOU! This thing was filmed Seven Months before it was shown in the theatre. I'm pretty damned sure they can't go back and give you "ONE MORE SONG" no matter how much you "LOVE DAVE"! Boils and Ghouls, rolling credits are a surer sign than risen houselights that the damned show is as over as OAT BRAN! Look, E.T. didn't really die and come back, you brick-heads, he was a puppet! There's no damned Blair Witch, either, and Leatherface was made up by some Texan film director. It's not real, dunce-cap bear, it's not even Memorex, it's a movie screen!
Still, great show... had to share the audience space with the Genetic Defectives from EDI Sector 7G, but great show, amigos. There are very few shows quite like Depeche Mode live... including this one. There's little question (especially having seen them before) that for sound-quality, visuals and a sensible balance between showcasing the band and tripping out the audience, this would be a full-on Five Star event. However, there's no substitute for seeing the boys live. Even so, I have to give the show Four Star out of Five! It's more than worth checking out, and you can... Touring the Angel: Live in Milan was released on DVD on September 26, 2006, the very day after I saw it on the big screen. Convenient, isn't it. Now that I think about it, mehtinks I paid to be shown a commercial. Sigh, what a sell out. Regardless, check it out. Click the ad for the DVD and/ or CD under my picture and buy it from Amazon. Actually, make all your Amazon purchases through my site. Come on, click around! Buy, Support... uh... Crap. I think I just sold out. Great. Well, might as well go all the way... I'll record my version of "Just Can't Get Enough" now. Just be kind enough not to sing along in a crowded theatre. I promise I'll have hot female backing vocalists for my shows, regardless of where they're shown.
NCM Release (09/25/06)
reviewed by J.C. Mašek III
who is solely responsible for the content of this site
and for his own singing voice.
Hey, if you can't sing... DON'T!
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Man... I want some Depeche Mode Live in Milan Porn!
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