L.A. has been in a celebratory mood all this week as one of our city’s most popular touring acts, Depeche Mode, upped the ante promo-wise for their upcoming Global Spirit Tour, which begins in Sweden next week. Doing press and rehearsals in town the past few days, the band also decided to do an intimate show for fans at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery last night — a thank-you for helping them make history by selling out three nights at the Hollywood Bowl and adding a fourth night to the run, something no band had ever done before.
Tickets for last night’s not-so-secret show were given away free this week via a drawing on the band’s website, and it truly was an organic, fan-fueled vibe inside the 150-capacity venue. Mirroring the cover art on their 14th studio album, Spirit, which came out in March, the stage was saturated in bright red light, the band dressed in contrasting black. Production was simple, and the tour will surely offer much more visually, but the Lodge's ornate chandeliers and graveyard-adjacent locale was a fitting backdrop for a band whose fan base has always been fond of dark aesthetics and themes.
Lead songwriter Martin Gore was up front playing guitar for most of the set, laying the foundation as always, while singer Dave Gahan injected feeling into his mate's moody new — and memorable old — material, as he clearly still loves to do. Depeche’s central duo maintain an intriguing interplay sonically, and on a personal level they seem more cohesive than ever. The pair engage a lot onstage these days and it’s a joy to watch, though Gahan’s sensuous dance moves still keep him the focal point. Well over three decades in with Depeche, he remains a dramatic, intense performer — but these days, kind of relaxed, too, which makes for giddy fun on the poppier new-wave stuff and adds a bit of nuance to the gloomier hits of the group’s heyday.
Spirit is Depeche's most political album yet, and the band opted to start the show with several of its most tension-filled, slow-build tracks. “Going Backwards” and “So Much Love” both ooze with the band's bass-heavy grooves and signature synth-poppy melodicism. While lead single “Where’s the Revolution” makes some evocative statements lyrically, it hasn’t struck a chord with fans the way the early emotive material or the world-minded Violator tracks did. The new songs resonated well live, though, particularly the vampy jam “Cover Me.”
I was lucky enough to attend a small rehearsal show for press and friends last Friday, and the band played a blissfully flashback-full set (with a heartfelt cover of Bowie’s “Heroes” to boot). Last night’s show was definitely more diverse and latter-era–minded, but their choices fit together seamlessly in tone and tempo. “Corrupt” off Sounds of the Universe, "World in My Eyes" off Violator, “A Pain That I’m Used To” off Playing the Angel and “Barrel of a Gun” off Ultra made for an entrancing set. Gore also pulled from Ultra for his solo moment, the wistfully grinding “Home. “
They saved the biggest hits for the end, naturally, with “Walking in My Shoes” and “Personal Jesus” closing out the show, and the non-encore (Gahan announced that they’d stay onstage and just do it) going to the sing-along classic “Enjoy the Silence.” Between the Masonic Lodge show and the more nostalgia-minded rehearsal I attended, I predict some extremely varied set lists as the tour progresses. But no matter what they pull out or play, it's apparent that right now Depeche Mode have more spirit than ever.
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Depeche Mode play the Hollywood Bowl Oct. 12, 14 and 16, with a fourth show added for Oct. 18. Tickets for that show go on sale Friday, April 28.
Los Angeles native Lina Lecaro has been covering L.A. nightlife since she started as a teen intern at L.A. Weekly (fake ID in tow) nearly two decades ago. She went on to write her own column, "Nightranger," for the print edition of the Weekly for six years. Read her "Lina in L.A." interviews for the latest nightlife news, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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