Depeche Mode’s latest concert film, Tour of the Universe, captures the stage show for their most recent world tour, in support of the album Sounds of the Universe. This review will be for the standard package, which comes with a DVD plus two audio CDs of the same performance, but otherwise contains no real extras (except for four “bonus” songs). There is also a deluxe version that adds an additional DVD of extras, as well as a Blu-ray release that ditches the audio discs but retains all the deluxe version extras.
Personal preference will largely dictate whether Sounds of the Universe is the Depeche Mode album that should anchor a concert film, but personally I thought it was one of their best, certainly in recent years. The opening tracks of “In Chains” and “Wrong” are both strong musically, although it seems that both the band and production crew are still trying to get their footing during these openers. Dave Gahan’s vocals start off fairly faint, and the camera-work lingers over the crowd too long. But after this we find things technically settle into a much better groove.
Throughout the show, Depeche Mode feel solid, if not overly energized. There isn’t much to fault with the performance, but those who have seen them live, or have frequented some of their other concert films, may detect that it’s a bit more by-the-numbers in terms of stage presence. Gahan isn’t as showy as on past tours, and Gore seems to follow that lead as well. The two additional band members for the tour factor in well, with the drummer especially helping to keep some energy up.
The band does a great job of blending the different phases of their career. Although nothing before Black Celebration makes an appearance, everything from then on is well represented, even including a couple of less performed tracks such as “Dressed In Black” and “Sister Of Night” (in the Bonus Tracks section).
On a technical level the audio mix for the show feels a bit flat. Dave’s vocals are too far down in the mix, and there is a lack of life to some of the instrumental sections. There is nothing that screams bad, especially as live events can be notoriously tricky to capture consistently, but there’s also not much that rises above the level of standard either. The video work oscillates between fine and being too “in the crowd” with blurry shots and awkward camera placements. The opening tracks are actually the main offenders, but hints of it still emerge later as well. Overall, the show seems to continually pick up some steam and as you progress through the tracklist the band seems to get more and more in their element.
Tour of the Universe isn’t Depeche Mode at their best, but it’s still pretty good. Although there are stronger performances to be had with the likes of 101 or even One Night In Paris in spots, this latest concert film from the band features a very strong set list, and the fact that it comes with Audio CDs as well makes it an easy recommendation for fans.