Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 7:09 am | Fair 53º

 
 
 
 

Jeff Moehlis: Depeche Mode Brings It Home

The band performs a stellar show at the Santa Barbara Bowl

To me, the highlight of Depeche Mode's concert last Tuesday night at the Santa Barbara Bowl was Martin Gore's moving performance of "But Not Tonight."

Gore, the band's songwriter who now happens to live in Santa Barbara and can often be seen out on the town, took the spotlight for this song, just accompanied by piano. When he sang "I haven't felt so alive in years," it truly felt like the song was written for that very night, for his now-hometown crowd.

Then, in an amazing moment after Gore finished, the crowd spontaneously starting singing the outro back to him, in loving appreciation of the man and the music. The same thing happened after Gore sang "Home" at the beginning of the encore.

Of course, the song "But Not Tonight" is actually more than 25 years old, being part of the band's vast catalog of dark-edged synth pop and alt rock nuggets. But the crowd's response to that song and others made it clear that their music from that era still resonates after all those years.

For most of the night, Gore yielded the spotlight to singer David Gahan, whose rich baritone was coupled with slinky rock star moves, many of them unapologetically feminine, that could leave no one questioning his sex symbol status. The other longtime band member, Andy Fletcher, mostly stayed in the background behind his keyboard.

Not surprisingly, the biggest response from the crowd was to the singles from their brilliant 1990 album Violator, namely "Policy of Truth," the personal fave "Enjoy the Silence" and "Personal Jesus," which started slow before hitting its familiar electro-blues stomp. "Reach out and touch faith!"

The band played other songs from their heyday, including "Black Celebration," "A Question of Time," "Shake the Disease" and the show-closer "Never Let Me Down Again." But instead of fully embracing the nostalgia-only route, they also played much of their fine new album Delta Machine, including show-openers "Welcome to My World" and "Angel."

Mention must also be made of the inspired staging, including arty Anton Corbijn films projected behind the band and lots of flashing lights synced to the music.

The only real disappointment of the evening was that the opening band, Crystal Castles, went on a half-hour before many people expected, myself included. My ticket said the show started at 7 p.m., so why did they go on at 6:30 p.m.? Sorry, all I'm able to say is that they sounded good as I walked up the hill after getting frisked and having my ticket scanned.

Fortunately, Depeche Mode more than made up for this unfortunate question of time with a stellar show.

Setlist

Welcome to My World
Angel
Walking in My Shoes
Precious
Black Celebration
Policy of Truth
Should Be Higher
Barrel of a Gun
The Child Inside (sung by Gore)
But Not Tonight (sung by Gore)
Heaven
Soothe My Soul
A Pain That I'm Used To
A Question of Time
Enjoy the Silence
Personal Jesus

Encore

Home (sung by Gore)
Shake the Disease (sung by Gore)
Never Let Me Down Again

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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