Depeche Mode’s lyrics have always juxtaposed themes of faith, redemption and hope with cynicism and skepticism, often straddling the fragile line between irony and sincerity within the same song. But on Sunday night in front of a near-capacity crowd at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, the legendary British electronic band – touring in support of its critically acclaimed new album “Delta Machine” - exuded nothing but positive energy for a two-hour-plus set, as if it had been rejuvenated after more than three decades of drama.
And why not? The band – led by founding members Andy Fletcher on keyboards, Martin Gore on guitar, and Dave Gahan on vocals – has survived its share of trouble, most notably a drug addiction that nearly took Gahan’s life.
But from the moment Depeche Mode took the stage to the sparse, ominous music of “Welcome to My World,” the lead track from the new album, it was clear that the group is in a good place. The combination of Gahan’s rich baritone – which has never sounded better – and the Nine Inch Nails-like gritty sound, pulsing with industrial menace, had the crowd cheering wildly as if the song were a wellknown classic. The bluesy “Angel,” the second track from “Delta Machine,” was propelled by a jagged, distorted guitar riff by Gore, with Gahan stalking around the stage, swaggering and preening in his best Mick Jagger imitation. Colorful, overexposed images of the band performing live flashed on the video screen, creating a very modern, yet Warhol-like psychedelic touch.
And then a trio of classics followed, each representing a different era: During “Walking In My Shoes,” Gahan thrust his arms in the air triumphantly and gave a shy grin as he sang the chorus; “Black Celebration” pleased the old-school Goth Depeche Mode fans; and the sing-along “Policy of Truth” from the band’s best album, “Violator” – during which Gahan danced in circles with the mic stand, then humped it like a male stripper - hinted at more well-known hits to come.
The new “Should Be Higher” seemed to be another personal confession from Gahan about his battle with drugs, as he spit out the lines “With the touch of your hand, I lose who I am” as if they burned his insides. More intimate moments occurred when Martin Gore sang the tender, soul-baring ballad “But Not Tonight,” accompanied by only piano; later, during the encore, he would win the crowd over again by singing the ballad “Home.”
In between, Gahan seemed to be cracking himself up during “A Question of Time,” by spinning wildly with the mic stand and grabbing his crotch salaciously; while videos of female contortionists – at once sexy and disturbing – enhanced the classic “Enjoy the Silence.” A thunderous drum solo that came seemingly out of nowhere led the band into a driving jam with a keyboard solo and Martin Gore funking on the guitar like Prince, while Gahan spun and twirled almost out of control.
All that mayhem led into a version of “Personal Jesus” that started out very slowly, in half-time, but kicked into gear when Gahan belted out the song’s signature line, “Reach out and touch faith!”
The five-song encore was highlighted by the dark and powerful “Halo,” during which Gahan’s voice has never sounded stronger – the crowd actually gasped with admiration when he started singing - plus “Just Can’t Get Enough,” a joyous reminder of the band’s lighter synth-pop days in the ‘80s. And the energetic closing song “Never Let Me Down Again” from the 1987 album “Music For the Masses” sent everyone home with definitely no letdown.
Lead singer Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode in concert at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. Photo: Gregory Castillo/The Miami Herald