Depeche Mode Press File

1991-1994:Part Four

Photo of Dave Gahan by unknown photographer. Reproduced without permission


Depeche Mode Artificial, Mediocre

The Forum, Los Angeles - November 21, 1993
The Devotional Tour - Canada, USA and Mexico leg

"Representing the utmost in musical artificial intelligence, Depeche Mode brings its largely artificial music to the Forum for five nights, capping the U.S. leg of an 18-month world tour.

Sunday’s show was, unfortunately, mediocre, yet at times strangely interesting.

An imposing stage set, which perched the group’s three keyboardists high above singer David Gahan, made Gahan look like a solo artist. His suggestive dancing and crotch grabbing were the highlight of the show, judging from the reaction of the screaming girls in the far-from-capacity crowd.

The concept of capacity may be another mystery regarding this band’s popularity.

All of the concerts are labeled a sell-out, but the hundreds of empty seats Sunday left us wondering: Is the term sell-out being attached arbitrarily to concerts simply for promotional hype?

The show began dramatically enough, with the four musicians silhouetted against sheer curtains that hid them from the crowd as the sounds of their synthetic music pulsed through the PA system. Eventually, they showed their faces and bedazzled the audience with the bizarre video imagery that accompanied many of their songs.

"Walking In My Shoes" featured a woman in a strange bird-like costume, while "Condemnation" started a trilogy of religious-themed videos/songs during which the band was joined by two gospel-tinged background singers.

Keyboardist Martin Gore also played guitar and handled lead vocals on a couple of songs. Towards the end of the show, a drum kit was set up, and group member Alan Wilder provided real percussion, adding energy to the otherwise bland sound.

"I Feel You," from the group’s latest album, "Songs of Faith and Devotion", benefitted from this arrangement."

Adam St. James
L.A. Life, 23rd November, 1993

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

The following two items review Depeche Mode's Birmingham, N.E.C. gig on December 14, 1993. The concert was performed on the UK leg of the Devotional Tour.


"Thirty seconds in, the shit-fool clapalong is underway. A Basildon lager lad steps out from behind the curtains, begins an awkward, nerdish strut.

"Wooh! Yeah! One time!"

He moves to the front of the stage, spreads his arms into a crucifixion pose. From the stands comes a long, loud, many-throated scream. Here’s something to chew on. Depeche Mode are taken seriously.

"Good evening BirmingHAM!" With a toss of the hair, he slides off his jacket and gobs. More screams. Hands thrown in the air, he starts moving his midriff around, like maybe he’s got lumbago, you know, trying to straighten his spine out. Louder screams.

Oh. It’s supposed to be sexy. Ah.

David Gahan grins the thick, beery grin of a lad who’s just broken wind in the pub.

Martin Gore (the Mode’s creative powerhouse: a poor man’s Julian Clary who rhymes "houses" with "trousers") takes the spotlight; behind him, two video screens. One shows a giant heart, the other a giant crucifix. Oh, ummm, I get it.

Let’s chew on. Berlin. Leather. Jesus. Bondage. HOW MANY MORE TIMES?

There are interesting possibilities buried in the fleshy rolls of "Stripped", "I Feel You", "Condemnation" – the misted shiver of German railway stations, big European chemical conglomerates (Hoechst rock, BASF boogie). The flipside of alienation being a certain brushed artificiality (think of Eno’s plastic tones turning "Heroes" Bowie into the exemplar of tasty, stylish psychosis), and the Mode being from Basildon (in its way a perfect breeding ground for alienation, yet hardly as authentic as East Berlin), these boys are perfectly positioned to exploit that distance, create a blank, PVC ambience that would in theory be unbearably poignant – think of Suede’s saving grace, the acknowledgement of the vacuum that surrounds them, the obsolescence of trying to mean it, maaan. It would be cute, it would not be hackneyed. But, Jesus, they’re trying to do this for real.

Worse: what they’re peddling is alienation chic, the oldest, easiest pose in the book. And they can’t even do THAT properly. The emptiness that pours from the stage of the NEC tonight has nothing to do with alienation, just vacancy; it’s not that they’re tortured by their inability to express themselves, rather that they have nothing to express. As Dave – sorry, David Gahan waddles over to my side of the stage, I squint into the gloom, look deep into his eyes – and hear the wind whistling through his ears.

But nothing can stop the screams – I hate to sound a snob (f*** that, if self-respect equals snobbery then count me in), but when the Mode titled an album "Music For The Masses", they were spot on – these are, in every sense, the masses. They clap their hands above their head and give me evil looks for not joining in, leave muttering "yeah, that was pretty good".

"Pretty good"?! – for all their pomposity, their BIG iconography, what Depeche deal in is simple mediocrity.

"I’ll show no repentance", bellows Gahan, "I’ll suffer with pride…"

The song shudders to a stop. "Alwoight? Aah ya doin’, BirmingHAM?"

Yeah. Enjoy the f***ing silence."

Taylor Parkes
Melody Maker, December 1993

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

Click to enlarge original review

Pomp Will Eat Itself

""Mah soouuul’s on fire blah blah blah burnin desiyerr blah blah blah take me higher and higher blah blah blah… GOOD EVENING BIRMINGHAM! Let me see those hands in the air! How y’all feelin’ out there? Alright? I can’t hear ya (cocked ear) Alright?!?!"

Not particularly. After 13 years, Depeche Mode have finally embraced ROCK, and got it WRONG. They haven’t taken individualism, or invention, or drama or emotion: they’ve taken cliché, pretension, pomp, melodrama and bullshit, and flogged its carcass once more.

The Spinal Tap ghosts are threatening to descend from the moment Dave Gahan bellows the first notes from behind a huge opaque curtain intended to show just his huge iconic shadow. But we can see him, through an unfortunate gap in the curtain, preening and strutting in a lime green jacket like a clockwork liquorice allsort. Nevertheless, out he bursts, eventually; down come the curtains, and he and his mic go for a mince up the catwalk. The man once cruelly dubbed ‘The Ugliest Man in Pop’ by Smash Hits is now a stadium sex fuhrer of doom rock. He must be, because he rubs his crotch, wiggles his bum and gropes his nipples a lot.

Reservations of a different kind creep in when the other three are revealed, up on high podiums with cornflake-packet futurist silver trimmings, mooging away like your mates in a fifth-form talent contest. At first it resembles a goth Des O’Connor backed by Ronnie Hazelhurst’s avant-garde orchestra, but then Dave discards his jacket to reveal a black bushy dress shirt and boogies badly on the catwalk. He is Marti Pellow’s evil twin and I claim my £20 entrance fee back.

But several thousand don’t. A strange bunch, Depeche fans – chunky lads in jeans, trainers and £23 Mode T-shirts, mostly from the engineering and insurance clerk classes, too square to be indie or dance fans, too cool to unself-consciously embrace pop music. They are cultural anomalies – like the band they’re watching – of a kind that only Britain could create. Everywhere else in the world, Depeche Mode are ‘alternative’ through and through, but here most people are too cynical to forget the simple pop charms of ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ et al, and too sussed to swallow the kind of witless stadium rock pseudery the Mode have now bought into.

Martin Gore is the only one with a hint of style, in admirably camp silver shorts; but he’s effortlessly upstaged by the stage décor – he resembles Tin Tin lost on the set of Flash Gordon – and, more importantly, by Dave (interesting point: what sort of rock icon is called ‘Dave’?). Our perv-beard hero finally gets down to just his sweatbeast vest, and we are momentarily distracted from any games of spot-the-arm-kebabs by the rest of the band adopting drums, guitar and piano for the only fully effective dark stomps of the night: ‘Personal Jesus’ and ‘I Feel You’. The backdrop has wannabe icon silhouettes of Dave in ‘Man at C&A meets Christ’ pose, and two authentically robed black backing singers come on as a last stab for rock cred, and we can just about accept it by now because the music has come good.

And, of course, that’s one thing you can’t deny about Depeche Mode. They’ve never lost the ability to pen a brooding, stirring tune. ‘Everything Counts’ finishes off the evening, reminding us that they can also write a pithy lyric to accompany them occasionally. But it’s a cruel world, and even those talents are not enough to override the misguided avant-garde pretensions, pomp, shabby cultural baggage, confusion, cliché and bullshit this band are wallowing in. An unholy mess, frankly."

Johnny Cigarettes
New Musical Express, 25th December, 1993

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

Click to enlarge original review


IN YOUR ROOM - released January 1, 1994

"There are three CDs' worth of mixes and live versions of stuff making up In Your Room by Depeche Mode. All this is released seperately over a period of weeks. Why? To keep it in the charts? Shame on me for being so cynical. The Mode may have some Dorian Gray-style pact that means they improve with age, but unless you've more money than sense don't buy it all, go for the Butch Vig mix."

Dave Morrison
Select, February 1994

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.


SONGS OF FAITH AND DEVOTION LIVE - released December 1993

"As the title suggests, this live album follows the running-order and style of the original blueprint. By anchoring the release so literally, Depeche Mode have produced a technically impressive memory-jogger, but it’s hardly an imaginative, unique document of their 1993 tour. On this year’s trail across America and Europe the twin evils of stadium pomp and Dave Gahan’s self-obsessed angst intruded on the dark vignettes of songwriter, Martin Gore. However, once the crass visuals are removed the musical power of their show is fully evident. Gahan’s voice sounds massive on blistering versions of "I Feel You" and "Higher Love" although, irritatingly, some of the lines are lost in the singer’s quest to involve the audience in a singalong. The band’s new-found aggressive spirit is forcefully conveyed through Gore’s industrial guitars and Alan Wilder’s power-drumming on tracks like "Mercy" [sic] and "Rush", but their ballads remain air-tight copies of the originals, cloning the studio-takes to evocative but pointless effect."

Steve Malins
VOX, January 1994

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.


A chronicle of the band's more public mishaps during the later stages of the Devotional Tour... and a portent of future troubles. Originally appeared in the 21st May, 1994 issue of L.A. Daily News. Words by Mark Brown.


Call it the "Songs of Fights and Incarceration" tour.

First, Depeche Mode singer Dave Gahan gets locked up in a Quebec jail cell after punching out a hotel employee. Then singer/songwriter Martin Gore is hauled off to the slammer in Denver after refusing to turn his music down at 4a.m. in a luxury hotel and being less than cooperative with the responding authorities.

The explanations are simple, Gahan said.

In Quebec, "The staff was very rude to us and wanted us to leave. We tried to convince them we were guests in the hotel. I ended up smacking one of the guys," Gahan said. "Martin got in trouble because he was having a party and music was playing. People kept complaining, so in the end the police came and arrested him."

The result? Dismissed charges for Gahan, but disorderly conduct charges, a $50 fine and headlines such as "Rock singer lands a gig in the brig" for Gore.

Nothing really out of the ordinary, Gahan said.

"We just happened to get arrested this time, that’s all. No one was really hurt in the end."

The public problems might just be a ripple effect from the turmoil within the band, which Gahan agreed hasn’t been on shakier ground since the defection of Vince Clarke in 1981. Keyboardist Andrew Fletcher has left the band, and not under the squeaky-clean pretences that the official press release listed. And after this tour ends, the future of the group is unknown.

Depeche Mode brings its high-tech sound to the Southland tonight with a concert at the Glen Helen Blockbuster Pavilion in Devore.

In recording and touring "Songs of Faith and Devotion", Gahan just couldn’t bring himself to repeat the formula that has been so successful for Depeche Mode since its debut 13 years ago, "Speak and Spell".
Gahan felt the band – which also includes keyboardist Alan Wilder – was too mired in its synthesized, sequenced past. The alternative-music revolution gave him a yearning for harder rock, as opposed to Gore’s classical and electronic leanings.

Thus began the transformation from clean-scrubbed Euro-twits hiding behind banks of keyboards to the scraggly, guitar-playing band that hit the Forum in Inglewood for five sold-out nights last November.

"I have had a hand in pushing the band in this direction," Gahan said. "I really felt I was getting incredibly bored sitting around and waiting for a computer to tell you what to do. I was pushing for us to play together more."

The tension threatened to derail the band, Gahan said, until the members tried it and found it worked.

While the format may have been a bit different, Gore’s songs remained the same.

"It’s basically the same three subjects – sex, love and partying. And then guilt about it," Gahan said.

After a successful album and tour in the new style, "it’s all water under the bridge now," he said.

Gahan is thrilled because Depeche Mode is now… well, now just like a real live band.

"It’s just a completely different feel. Alan’s playing a lot more live drums. He’s right behind me on stage; I can feel him, hear him. Martin’s playing guitar right next to me on stage," he said. "We wanted more emphasis on us playing and doing the songs, with the energy more coming from the band rather than the lights and theatrics of a modern-day rock show. It’s a lot sleazier, a lot more live, basically a lot more fun."

Not for everyone.

When it was announced that Fletcher would no longer be touring with the band, the official reason was that he planned to attend more to the business side of the group. A couple of months after the fact, Gahan admitted that there was more to the story.

"Basically, Fletch is going to spend some time sorting out his problems," Gahan said. "His wife’s about to have another baby as well. Being away from the people you want to be with for a long while probably had a lot to do with Fletch’s feelings."

While declining to expand on it, Gahan acknowledged that Fletch’s defection "pushed the band hard and made us all think."

Still, it hasn’t slowed the band’s trek. This tour takes the group to South Africa, Australia, South America and other places for the first time.

"We wanted to go to the places we’d always ignored – not ignored, but were too tired to go to," he said.

The time in Johannesburg, just before the elections, was particularly eye-opening, Gahan said.

"It was kind of like just before the L.A. riots. I remember the feeling at the time, on the streets and stuff. It was just the same. You could feel it," he said. "I despise politics. I just play in a band. But it was interesting to just be there and read the news every day."

The tour ends in Milwaukee this year.

"We’ll say goodbye to each other… go away, spend time at home and do stuff with our families, doing normal things," Gahan said. "We’ll get together at the end of the year and talk about what we want to do. We do that every tour.

"If we’re going to make a record together, we have to be ready. If we’re not, we won’t."

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.



by Steve Malins
, October 1994

Dave Gahan has reinvented himself as Michael Hutchence on Depeche Mode’s world tour…
By Steve Malins. Pictures by Paul Slattery.

"WHEN I RUSH/When I come up/I rush for you" sings Dave Gahan during ‘Rush’, as he strides towards the audience, shirt discarded to reveal the phoenix and the "Om" symbol tattooed on his chest. To him, they represent his own spiritual rebirth and "the sounds of the universe", while the wings on his back were etched in preparation for the psyched-up nights of this world tour. No doubt he keeps them covered when he goes back to the white-knuckled conservatism of Basildon, his birthplace, but, for Gahan, they’re the marks of a new person. He’s emerged from the debris of a broken marriage and the death of a father he hardly knew to become this emotional mix of little-boy-lost and rock messiah. Consequently, there’s a lack of wit, self-knowledge or perspective in his performance at Detroit’s Pineknob stadium, as he rebounds between numbing mania and surges of real feeling.

When Gahan stretches out his arms and spreads his wings, it’s a sobering thought that tonight’s gig is only three weeks from the end of their world tour. Last night the band held a party for their road crew, signalling that the Depeche Mode convoy is already changing down a gear. For Gahan, the switch from this self-obsessed exhibition of nervous energy to life off the road will be difficult. In D. A. Pennebaker’s 1989 documentary of the band, 101, there’s a moment when the singer describes a fight he’s had with a taxi driver. "Letting out that energy and tension like you do on-stage, it’s not enough; you’ve still got more. That was definitely a release. I was looking for a fight for a good few days."

It’s tempting to imagine a stocky cabbie puncturing the pseudo-babble of this gaunt, sallow-faced artist with a single swing. But for Gahan, his current battles are more emotional than physical.

Unless he lances his unstable ego and sees the joke that he’s in danger of becoming, it’s unlikely that there will be another Depeche Mode album. His fellow band members have all confessed the irritation and even contempt they’ve felt for their singer at times. Gahan himself admitted that while making Songs Of Faith And Devotion, "a lot of the time it was hard for them to be in the same room as me".

None of the group attended his wedding to their former publicist, Teresa Conway, in 1992, which was conducted with garish humour at the Gracelands Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. He wore a see-through shirt that showed off his tattoos and the witness was an Elvis look-a-like. It’s particularly difficult for keyboard player Andy Fletcher, a man of piercing common sense, to understand this born-again rock star. While Gahan immersed himself completely in gaudy rock’n’roll myths, Fletcher quietly vacated his place on the final leg of the tour (he’s been replaced by session man Daryl Bamonte) to be with his wife for the birth of their new child.

Nevertheless, Depeche Mode have gained from Gahan’s emotional hysteria. His voice has been a revelation over the past four years, changing from a pop monotone into a rich, powerful outlet for his own turmoil. Although Martin Gore denies that he has written any songs with Gahan specifically in mind, the singer’s more personal approach perfectly complements the twisted gospel and blues of their more recent albums. At tonight’s show, the frontman is chillingly direct as he blasts out ‘I Feel You’, ‘Rush’ and the healing faith of ‘Personal Jesus’.

Breathless and hollowed-out with exhaustion, Gahan’s 360-degree spins and outstretched crucifix poses are lapped up by an audience who are here to be seduced by the fantasy of a rock icon. They are noticeably impatient when faced with the minimal stage-presence of Bobby Gillespie and Primal Scream, the support act. However, when Gahan walks on-stage, one hand on his crotch and his tongue flapping like a dog on heat, the sexual charge instantly runs through them. Sex is, after all, the dominant theme of Gore’s songs, which range in mood from the tight-lipped claustrophobia of ‘Enjoy The Silence’ to the dark salvation of ‘One Caress’. Gahan’s leering performance occasionally turns into pure pantomime, but it’s a lot sexier than the other immobile figures behind their keyboards.

EVENTUALLY Gahan runs out of steam. There’s no sign of a physical let-up, as he snakes around the mic stand and bounds across to the front row. However, he looks numb and preoccupied in between bursts of melodrama. It’s understandable because of the enormous effort of will needed to satisfy a fanatical following over such a long tour. Furthermore, there’s no way back because the band’s set is built for Gahan to roam around and make his stadium-size gestures. For almost all of their world tour, the keyboard trio of Gore, Wilder and Fletcher have been elevated above the main stage, leaving the front area for the singer to dominate. Perhaps he feels insecure about his contribution to the band (Gore writes all the songs, Wilder does the bulk of the work in the studio, Fletcher handles the business), because he’s ready to scar himself with his tattoos and mind-games, rather than challenge the set-up. For all his emotional bluster, he’s been playing this Rock God fantasy out of an almost childlike desire to please both his audience and the other members of the band.

The battle-lines have been drawn, and Gahan’s territory at the front doesn’t change, even in Detroit, where a smaller stage has brought them together on the same level. Only Alan Wilder’s surly machismo and his flamboyant cross-dressing of Mad Max and cowboy chic rivals the presence of the singer. Martin Gore is less noticeable, apart from his occasional trip to the front to pick out his two-chord guitar riffs or to sing ballads such as ‘Judas’ and ‘One Caress’. This former bank clerk can’t hold the audience’s attention for long, but his brief forays into the spotlight are a striking contrast to his friend’s frantic body-jerks. Aided by this grandiose foil, Gore’s stationary performance in fetish-glam gear gives a feeling of intimacy that is perfect for the introspective chill of his lyrics.

Gore almost steals the show during these moments, but he can’t rival the soul-baring honesty of Gahan singing ‘Never Let Me Down’, a song that encapsulates his state of mind with the words "We’re flying high/We’re watching the world pass us by/Never want to come down/Never want to put my feet back down on the ground."

As he claps his hands and arches back with a wild grin, he sees an astronaut beamed on to the screen behind him, one of the images created for the tour by photographer/director, Anton Corbijn. The figure looks a little fragile and alone as he floats in space like a strung out Major Tom, projecting some of the dangerous frailties of the winged-man, out on his own, below.

Note: Depeche Mode performed two nights in Detroit from October 22-23, 1993.

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photo by Paul Slattery reproduced without permission.

Devotional Tour stage set
Photo by unknown photographer. Reproduced without permission

Alan Quits