Depeche Mode

Wembley Arena Pavilion on Mon 3rd Apr 2006

Arena shows are a dubious deal. Even the greatest performance is threatened with being averaged out by the humongous lung in which it’s taking place. Yet ever since the era-defining Rose Bowl concert, documented on the quintessential ‘101’, Depeche Mode have become the living embodiment of the perfect arena band. On the second night of two at Wembley’s 10,000 capacity Pavilion, eager fans clamour for the songs that soundtracked their teenage years and beyond. It’s the same story no matter which band are headlining such a venue, be it Duran Duran, Beastie Boys or Blink 182, so if you’ve attended an arena show you need not read on – you’ll already have an idea of the imposing yet uninspiring atmosphere that ruminates between the four walls. Excitement, anticipation ... the most mainstream, stock emotion – sure – we’ve seen it all before. Luckily it doesn’t make the sense of occasion seem any less sincere and when Depeche Mode do finally appear on stage, they thrive on it.

The necessary flamboyant stage set, a bastion of the mega-show, erected for the benefit of those at the very back desperate to find something for their squinting eyes to focus on, is deservedly ostentatious. Reminiscent of the Industrial Zone on The Crystal Maze, infused with the kind of camp spirit that sniffed around the Blue Oyster gay bar in the Police Academy movies, it’s the perfect playground for the electropop umpires to play ball.

A foreboding metal boulder hangs from the ceiling on one side of the stage, bearing the logos Sex, Pain and Anger. Projections of the band’s performance are processed through faux-CCTV camerawork, whilst if it weren’t for his cheeky smile reminding you that it’s just showbiz, baby, lead singer Dave Ghan’s tight leather smocks might have you mistake him for a lost, sodomised prisoner from a homoerotic detention centre.

This well-oiled squalor is the physical manifestation of the aural horror that underscores current album ‘Playing The Angel’, and as they open with ‘A Pain That I’m Used To’, the image and sound synthesise to bring the band’s latest incarnation to life.

Despite the role in defining the 1980’s with their dark-edge electro pop, Depeche Mode have succeeded where other bands such as Duran Duran have failed, by successfully evolving with the times, meaning an empty sense of a nostalgia tour is avoided and people really are keen to hear the new material. So it is that recent songs ‘John The Revelator’ and ‘Suffer Well’ go down as pleasingly as classics ‘A Question Of Time’ and ‘Behind The Wheel’.

Sadly this evolution seems to have doubled as a license to remove some of the particularly stylised 80’s edge. While it’s never going to be possible to completely rid ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ of the era’s charm, as it pounds through Wembley’s speakers, it seems ridiculous that the band should try and make this inherently light-hearted pop song taken on a more sinister sounding undercurrent.

Still, ‘Enjoy The Silence’, ‘Personal Jesus’ and ‘Everything Counts’ soar effortlessly across the crowd, whilst Martin Gore’s solo spectacle of ‘Shake The Disease’ is a genuinely serene moment in amongst the chaos of so many people head-bobbing to catch a view.

Depeche Mode in 2006 seem as confident as they were in 1986. The fact so many people still pay to see them stands testament to this. They may no longer be defining an era as they did in ‘101’, but nevertheless Depeche Mode are still a lot of fun.

article by: Alex Hoban

published: 05/04/2006 10:03


sorry, we currently have no gigs listed for this act.