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Concert Review: Depeche Mode Live in San Antonio, TX

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Depeche Mode played San Antonio last night, Nov 9th. The show perfectly met all the criteria of an aging band trying to promote their new album: A too generous helping of new songs followed by the crowd pleasing greatest hits show. The performance was all around excellent and worth seeing.

Life Distilled Picture

It was the sixth stop on the Playing the Angel tour, the band’s first tour since 2001 to support the Exciter album. By city #6, it was evident the show was well rehearsed and polished, but not yet stale. The band members tried to keep the performance fresh, despite using the same set list (see below) for every other stop on the tour. As everything was pretty well scripted, there was very little audience engagement outside the songs. The continual challenge for any band with over two and a half decades of experience is to keep the show new and bring it excitement. Depeche Mode did a great job playing the part, whether or not the excitement actually existed.

Technically the show was almost flawless. The sound was clear and balanced almost perfectly excepting a few minor flaws. The lights added to, but didn’t distract from the show. Each song had its own “light theme” executed with perfect timing, clearly rehearsed many times before. The set took an “Alien”/”Heavenly” theme, with the sleek white synth stations like control decks out of a bad Star Trek rip off. On the side of the stage there was a giant “orb” that would change to different word combinations (like Angel, Sex, Enjoy, Love, Vice, Pain, etc) for each song. The centerpiece of the set was a “broken” projection screen effect that consisted of around eight screens overlapping each other at odd angles. The screens sometimes worked in tandem, and sometimes used inventive camera shots. For instance, one screen would have a close up shot of Martin, while another screen had a shot of Dave singing in front of the screen showing Martin. The effect was very nice.

Not too surprisingly the band all came Dressed in Black, with Martin sporting a black winter hat (the kind that goes over the ears) with a black yarn Mohawk on top, and Dave losing his clothes with each successive song.

To the music… Like all good older acts Depeche Mode opened with “A Pain That I’m Used To,” the first song on the new album. Songs from Playing the Angel pretty much dominated the first half of the show. “A Question Time” and “Policy of Truth” broke up the series new songs and got the crowd excited. During the former, Dave did his trademark spin and it really riled up the audience. “Walking in My Shoes” followed, and was definitely the best performance in the first half of the show.

The pace slowed down when Martin came out to do his songs. He started with “Damaged People,” which was a decent performance of a mediocre song. “Home” was really the highlight of Martin’s time. Although it was missing some of the depth live strings would have provided; it was a moving performance, with and awed silent attention from the crowd.

After finishing out the last of the Angel songs, Depeche Mode shifted gears to the second half of the night with “I Feel You.” It was apparent that not only that the audience was having more fun with the older songs, but that the band was as well. “Personal Jesus” was most noteworthy because the audience fill-in technique Dave had been using all night finally panned out with the audience chanting, “Reach out, touch faith.” “Enjoy the Silence” was easily the best performance of the night, with an extended performance and an incredible amount of energy from both sides of the stage.

The encores weren’t shabby either. Martin gave a perfect “Somebody” rendition, and Dave followed with the fun 1981 hit, “Just Can’t Get Enough.” Following was easily the 2nd best performance of the evening, “Everything Counts.” What made it so great was the band’s obvious indelible connection to the song, and the obligatory audience fill-in at the end. The second encore started with a great job of “Never Let Me Down Again,” and the soulful Martin and Dave duet “Goodnight Lovers,” in which the whole band sang together at the end.

Although Depeche Mode was long past their performance peak, for what you would expect 15 years down the road, the show was wholly excellent and largely unforgettable. See them if you have a chance. (Rating 8/10)

Set List:
A Pain That I’m Used To
John the Revelator
A Question of Time
Policy of Truth
Walking in My Shoes
Suffer Well
Damaged People
I Want It All
The Sinner in Me
Interlude > I Feel You
Behind the Wheel
World in My Eyes
Personal Jesus
Enjoy the Silence

Just Can’t Get Enough
Everything Counts

2nd Encore:
Never Let Me Down Again
Goodnight Lovers

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About scim

  • Eric Olsen

    whoa, nice to see you back scim. You conveyed the show quite well – I haven’t seen Depeche in about 10 years but I’m pleased to hear they are still putting on a satisfying show. David in particular is a fine performer.

    I saw them at the Whiskey or Roxy (can’t remember which) club in LA in 1980-81 right after Speak and Spell came out – they’ve come a long way since then, transcending their electropop beginnings without turning their backs on it

  • Sadly, Depeche Mode are not touring in my part of the world any time soon but thanks for a review of the concert, seems I’m missing a great show.

    I can only hope they release a DVD for this tour at some point. In the mean time I can use the set list you so thoughtfully provided to create a paylist on my iPod and I can close my eyes and pretend.

  • Good report, dude – thoroughly enjoyable band

  • Eric- Thanks for activating my jealous side 🙂

    GG- I didn’t see any cameras at this specific show, but maybe they’ll film another. The show was definitely DVD worthy. How long since they’ve stopped over in South Africa?

  • i’m not completey up on the chronology of when Gahan’s drug use took hold. the reason i mention it is that (and i’ve written about it somewhere around here) the only concert i’ve ever walked out on was a Depeche Mode show.

    it was on the Music For The Masses Tour. what was so bad about it was that it seemed like they weren’t actually playing any instruments. not even hitting button on the samplers. in retrospect, i wonder if maybe they were just all screwed up with chemicals. don’t know.

    it’s too bad beause i quite like both Black Celebration and Music For The Masses (the opening bit was the only part i liked: a massive, towering, scary “Pimpf” that went into “Behind The Wheel”).

    i also like the new record too.

  • I still haven’t heard the new record, but this concert review sure put me in the mood for it!

  • Mark-

    That’s a bummer. I always imagined that would have been a great time to see them, but I guess not.

  • scim, the answer is too long. Unless they snuck in for a quick concert or two while I wasn’t looking the last time they played here was 1994, The Devotional Tour.

    They still have quite a few months to tour so I’m holding thumbs on them recording the show. In the mean time I’ll console myself with watching the Exciter DVD.

  • geishagal

    “As everything was pretty well scripted, there was very little audience engagement outside the songs.”

    I do not know where you were at when you interpreted that. I went to the Dallas show and it was not as crowd interactive as the Dallas show. The show was full of energy by the audience. It is offensive for you to even diss SA crowd….Depeche Mode seemed more into this show than they did the Dallas show due to crowd response and I spoke personally with a few of the members and they always have enjoyed the energy of San ANtonio! I think you are being harsh on the SA crowd….we are VERY passionate about our DM….very much so….what more are you asking from us???

  • Hey, geishagal-

    That comment wasn’t meant as a knock against the audience at all. The SA audience was great. The comment refered to the band’s interaction with the audience outside of the songs. Besides the obligatory “Hello San Antonio!!”, DM was largely silent in between songs. At a concert, I’d like to feel a closer connection to the band than that.

  • Francisco Carrillo

    I have tickets for the San Diego show next Saturday (nov 19), and this will be the Seventh Time I have seem them.

    In Southern CA, Depeche Mode Fans, are Fanatical, I was on The Tower Records L.A. Riot.

    I saw them in Monterrey (Mexico) on the Songs of faith and Devotion Tour, and it you can notice how the Band feeds of the energy out of crowd, it was a bad concert. In San Diego, the same tour and same songs list, was a completely different concert.

    Thanks for the review…

    To the people that are waiting to buy the New Album, buy it, it one of top 3 albums (or cds) of Depeche Mode. Considering Violator as #1.

  • strangetex

    i have been an aficionado of DM since 1987 Music for the Masses and have kept up with them since then and went back and filled in what i missed prior to 87. I have seen them 4X starting with the Devotional tour in 93 in Pittsburgh, PA; The Singles Tour in the Alamodome, San Antone; the Exciter Tour at Smirnoff’s in Dallas and now Angel Tour at AA in Dallas.

    I agree with geishagal that SA had easily the most energy and new their DM better than any of the other tours or towns i’ve been in.

    i agree with the original post that DM is still in good form and dave gahan can still work a song and a crowd with the best of them…also this is the most animated that i have ever seen Martin Gore. Catch em on tour if u can…

    Also, ur a little off on ur chemical dependency years…altho, i’m sure the boys may have used an assist from the pick me ups before Dave’s breakdown…the breakdown that almost brought the show to a stop was during the late stages of the Devotional Tour in 94-95. Music for the Masses and the Concert for the Masses was in 87-88.

  • Vancouver Paul

    Nice review scim.

    I saw them this Tuesday in Vancouver and I have to say that the energy was unbelievable. The venue was not a sellout but the crowd that was there certainly enjoyed themselves and you could tell the band were as well.

    I had’nt been to a concert for a while and am really starting to feel like I can’t be bothered to make the effort to get out and see the bands that I like but this concert was well worth getting out for and I would recommend anyone to go see them. If you have any kind of appreciation for Depeche Mode you will not be dissapointed.

    I wish I was going to see them again. The opening act – The Raveonettes – were excellent as well.

  • Paul

    How long did they play for? What time did they go on?

  • If I remember correctly the Bravery went on right at 8, and played a pretty lame 30 minute set. DM went on a little after 9, and played about two hours. Getting out of the parking lot was surprisingly easy 🙂

  • Chris Rush

    I would give it a 8.9to 9 rating myself, worth the 100.00 front row, stage left ticket price.

  • Crackergal

    I just saw them last night (11/18) In San Jose, CA and they were outstanding!! The set was jam packed with favorites and the energy was electrifying. It was 2 hours of solid fun. Don’t miss this tour!

  • Art in San Diego

    I saw DM’s show last night here at the ipayone center. I must say it was much, much better than their Exciter show in ’01. The crowd was going wild after the second intermission. It was hit after hit of cool music. I’ve never heard 10,000 people scream so loud. You could really tell Dave was into it. The standout song was “I feel you” but especially towards the end. He yelled out, “yeah baby!”, like he knew he was at the top of his game again 🙂 The other standout song was “Behind the Wheel” while he was on the short projecting walkway shaking hands with people. I’ve been to about 50 big concerts and this one ranked as one of the best if not the best I’ve seen. It was as good as their Violator show here in ’90. If you like DM, do whatever it takes to be at one of their shows this 05/06 tour.

  • Ladybug

    All I can say is “wow.” Saw DM this past Saturday in San Diego. My last concert was 12 years ago (Devotional Tour) and I was afraid that it would be tough to beat. No worries… this concert was amazing. Everything from the stage design, lighting, and imagery… was perfect. Of course, Dave and Martin sounded impeccable. I truly believe they are one of those few bands that actually sound better live. You can’t beat the energy. I danced my ass off … and I had a HUGE smile on my face the entire time. Personal Jesus and Everything Counts were highlights for me. GREAT SHOW. Don’t miss it. And don’t miss the new album… I’ve been playing it to death these past few weeks. It’s up there with Violator.

  • Jason

    Saw the San Diego show Saturday night….it was incredible…no one sat down the entire time.

    FYI….I saw steadicams in the front row and they had cameras set up in the mixing tower area…

    DVD Live from San Diego?????


    THANKS ! I am getting ready for TONIGHT CONCERT..

  • A DVD relase of this tour would be so welcome! Thanks for the report Jason!!

  • retrogirl

    All the comments have got me pumped to go see Depeche Mode on Thursday, December 1st in Toronto. I just saw Echo and the Bunnymen last Wednesday, the venue only held about 464 people. I was so close to the stage it was amazing. I am having a retro month.

  • tuki

    Oh great!So they’re on today in Toronto..Just wonderful,the concert’s probably on right now..As I’m reading all of these comments on how great DM’s live performances are. Sadly, the tour doesn’t cover my country..A country right next to mine is privilaged, the show’s in MAY…and it’s SOLD OUT SINCE OCTOBER!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • nahtrj

    is their any pictures of the riot at tower records in LA. I was there when it happened I was standing on the brick looking into the store and a big fat bitch that was the president of the fan club was flipping people off.

  • Chino

    I love depeche mode. I was watching them when Alan Wilder joined Depeche Mode on stage at the Royal Albert Hall last February 17th, 2010, for a very special performance of “Somebody”, that benefited the Teenage Cancer Trust.