WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE TEENAGE DREAM?
It was in Martin Gore's pocket. He's been hiding it all this time, but now that he's started performing "Somebody" again, as part of Depeche Mode's encore on Touring The Angel, the teenage dream is back.
I was immediately transported to younger days when friends and I would quietly croon the song together, convinced as we were that this was the ideal portrait of a partner, everything we could ever want. And it's still true, the fantasy still holds, and for a handful of minutes on Wednesday night, an arena full of people believed it.
Both of Depeche Mode's encores at Seattle's Key Arena were wonderfully old school, a nice cap on a concert mindfully free of nostalgia. "Just Can't Get Enough" followed "Somebody," and then "Everything Counts." Encore 2 kicked off with "Never Let Me Down Again," and everyone waved their hands back and forth like it was 101. And with Dave Gahan's hair cut short, you could squint and swear it was 1990 all over again.
Which was just the tail end, a ride out on a wave of glory. The main set focused half on Playing the Angel, and half on hits that fit in with the more current sound: "A Question of Time," "Walking in My Shoes," "I Feel You"--all standards from recent tours. The band swaps out the current album in a now regular set of trie-and-true standards. The final one-two punch of "Personal Jesus" and "Enjoy the Silence" is expected, but never dull, and there were still some surprises in store. "Policy of Truth," "Behind the Wheel," and "World in My Eyes" weren't part of the Exciter set, and there was surprisingly little from that album or from Ultra: just one song each.
The more muscular first half of Playing The Angel was the backbone of the show. "A Pain That I'm Used To" and "John the Revelator" got the night rolling with an exciting pelvic thrust. The stripped down intro of "Precious" added new dimension to the little-song-that-could, bringing Gore's trilling riff to the fore; "I Want It All" and "Suffer Well" were great vehicles for Gahan's voice. (And am I right, did we get "The Sinner in Me," as well? I can't remember for sure.)
Gahan is, as always, the star. There's no one else in rock that goes for it as unabashedly as he does, and it allows him to get away with a million cheesy sing-a-longs, every "yeah" and "come on" that he desires. If you saw some guy down the local club pulling those moves, you'd laugh; when Gahan does it, you follow along, scream, yell, everything.
Which is always the fun of a Depeche Mode concert. It's a communal event, the fans dancing, singing, bowing to Gahan's every command. Our seats were pretty shitty--high and off to the side, which thankfully wasn't so bad since the band didn't have elaborate backdrops this time--but usually the cheap seats are a lot of fun. The folks stuck up there have nothing to do but have a party. So what the hell was the deal with every boring loser in Seattle ending up in our section? A group of girls had moved over to the empty seating area next to us so they could dance, and midway through the set, I followed. I had to be on my feet. Through the night, more defected, including a frat-looking guy who was dead into it. If I saw him on the street, I'd think we had nothing in common, but in the Church of the Mode, we were one. He was singing and dancing just as enthusiastically as I was. Music for the Masses.
Gore got his usual interlude, always a highlight. Thankfully, he took off his winter hat with the ear flaps by that point. (When he came out, I thought he had a Planet of the Apes mask on.) It was just the black wings by then. "Home" is a new staple, and "Damaged People" sounded better live than on record. His croon has real power.
The show's closer was "Goodnight Lovers," which should hopefully stick. Most bands would have a hard time ending on a quiet note, but for Depeche Mode, this song serves as one last breath, a contented sigh. For it, Gahan and Gore walked out together onto a platform that extended into the crowd, commiserating directly with the audience. It was a lovely comedown, a suitable farewell.
Opening the night was The Raveonettes, who were fantastic in an all-too-brief set. They began with Buddy Holly's "Everyday" and then cherry-picked album tracks from Pretty In Black and Chain Gang of Love. They were noisy and abrasive where necessary, but the sound mix was amazing, never once sacrificing the melodies or nuances. It's too bad the lamebrains in our immediate vicinity weren't giving the band more of a chance. During their slot, in fact, Christopher and I were in different sections, as he showed up a little late, and we both heard people make "Raisinettes" jokes. Ay yi yi.
Before I go, I want to note for you anthropologists out there some new phenomena. Well, maybe not so new, maybe I don't go to arena shows enough, but two things I noticed involving cell phones:
(1) People calling their friends who were in different sections of the arena and trying to find each other
(2) Using lit-up phones instead of cigarette lighters during ballads.
Is this behavior new? Or simply sad?
Current Soundtrack: Depeche Mode, "Precious" (US single)
Current Mood: giddy
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2005 Jamie S. Rich