Depeche Mode | Pop review

The O2, London

"Pain and suffering in various cities" was the snappy slogan on a T-shirt worn by a "Modehead" in block 111. The band's personal travails – heroin addiction, illness, breakdowns – have contributed to the darkness of their hugely influential electro-rock. The T-shirt, advertising the 2005 album Playing the Angel, was also evidence of a sense of humour, an attribute otherwise in short supply tonight, unless you included the moment Dave Gahan introduced guitarist Martin Gore with "Ladies and gentlemen, Jay-Z!"

Gahan, in remarkably good shape after recovering from bladder cancer, and his band are in the enviable position of being able to do exactly what they like here, including playing a set that omits most of the big hits. It didn't matter – many in this crowd were too young even to remember the stadium years of the 1990s, let alone the 80s singles that made their reputation as innovators in what was then music's new frontier.

Unfettered by self-consciousness, Depeche have always got away with pretensions that would make other bands laughing stocks. The bleak power of Precious swept the house away, despite its lyrics being scrolled down a screen, where we could fully contemplate its teenage self-absorption ("I can no longer call myself a man, woman, angel or even pure soul"); Walking in My Shoes, synchronised to a video of a crow perched on a fencepost, was equally overwhelming – the crow flapping its wings in time to the music seemed not funny but poignant.

Unexpectedly, the most touching moments were the three songs Gore sang alone. Insight, Home and One Caress were small, weary and breakable – vivid counterpoints to the sonic hailstorm of the rest of this memorable show.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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