Introducing Depeche Mode

A new audience is discovering the veteran electro-pop band, which has been around for decades

May 18, 2006|By GLENN GAMBOA | GLENN GAMBOA,NEWSDAY

No matter how much singer David Gahan likes to take off his shirt, Depeche Mode, known for its black celebrations, blasphemous rumors and personal Jesuses, is not exactly a band meant for the outdoors.

Martin Gore, the band's other singer and chief songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, agrees.

"Generally, I do prefer being indoors," he said, calling from a tour stop in San Francisco. "It captures the sound better. It feels better, works better with things. It's a bit of a different vibe just being outdoors, especially for us. But it's summer and it's nice to get out."

The sunshine and fresh air from its first major tour of amphitheaters in four years aren't the only new things the veteran electro-pop band is trying out.

Its latest album, Playing the Angel (Mute), features the first Depeche Mode songs written by Gahan. All its shows on the tour, which stops at Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, Va., on Sunday, will be recorded, with each set to be released as a limited-edition double CD. (The band is also remastering and repackaging all of its albums -- starting with Speak and Spell, Music for the Masses and Violator, to be released in June -- to include B-sides and remixes.)

For Gore, though, the oddest new thing on tour has been the return of the teenagers in the audience.

"It's been absolutely astounding," he said. "Looking out and seeing 16- and 18-year-olds in the audience is strange. I can second-guess it. We're getting played on the radio again, and I think that keeps us relevant. And a lot of the bands in the new electronic scene cite us as influences a lot."

For the past 26 years, Depeche Mode has been a leader in the electro-pop, new wave, dance, industrial and electronica genres. "I think a lot of our younger audience has been checking out our back catalog to see for themselves what everyone is talking about," Gore said.

They are also checking out Depeche Mode's new music. The tender first single, "Precious," did surprisingly well, as have the more aggressively rocking "A Pain That I'm Used To" and the dancey, yet depressed current single "Suffer Well."

It's a mix that Gore said works for the band members, who have subtitled the latest album "Pain and Suffering in Various Tempos," though Playing the Angel is more uptempo, if not upbeat.

"I think the things we write about are more palatable to people when the music is uptempo," Gore said, with a laugh.

The band's live show uses a similar mix, as Gahan tackles the brawnier dance numbers such as "Enjoy the Silence" and "Personal Jesus," while Gore handles the delicate ballads such as "Home" and "Goodnight Lovers."

"It's light and shade," Gore said. "They draw each other out."

The same can be said of Gahan and Gore, who both released solo albums in 2003, leading to speculation the band would call it quits. However, Gore said that scenario was "no more likely than any other time."

"We stay together because we realize we create something that's special," he said. "It's greater than the sum of its parts."

Glenn Gamboa writes for Newsday.

Depeche Mode performs along with She Wants Revenge at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge in Bristow, Va. Tickets are $20-$75 and available through Ticketmaster at 410-547-SEAT or ticketmaster.com.

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