Music Legends Depeche Mode conquer Hollywood, in four unforgettable nights that will go down in musical history. Ranked as one of subnormal magazine’s Top 10 Greatest Bands of All Time, Depeche Mode are phenomenal. So when they announced they were taking another one of subnormal’s top favorite artists – Warpaint – on the road with them as opener for their latest world-wide tour, they doubly proved what that magazine and we already knew – the forever coolness of Depeche Mode.
Exquisite, stunning, elegant brilliance; Depeche Mode are not merely a band – they are a spiritual experience; a timeless group of mind-blowing, soul-stirring, sophisticated gentleman that are three of among the greatest living recording artists on the planet.
Like a lover who broke one’s heart that they will forever love; a sadly sweet memory; so too is the tragic beauty of Depeche Mode. Hauntingly romantic, with some of the greatest melodies, beats, and songs ever created by anyone on the planet ever – Depeche Mode are an embodiment of humanity’s greatness – of a touch of the divine in man.
Shamen for the Ages
During the early days of Kings and Queens, the singer and the musician were treated as royalty, and worked in the personal employ of the Royal Court – to lift up their spirit, to fill with life – to entertain.
In today’s instant action, split second, digital age world; music is a second thought for most, and singers and bands – when famous – like pop culture itself – are often consumed, ridiculed, and spat out until the next trendy buzz comes along. And yet, there is no higher form of life or celebration of the spirit than of art – and music; the eternal orchestra – the infinite dance.
Depeche Mode is such heavenly, magnificent, perfect bliss – the sound in us all that we simply long to find – to feel – to experience. They are among the few rare, great souls on the planet during any age, who exemplify the meaning of life – to live passionately, with beauty, with joy, with love – and to celebrate every movement and moment of life itself.
Soulful, tear-filled beauty, Depeche Mode have embodied for nearly four decades, the role of the Shamen OF the Ages – the voices and players of spirit upon the Earthly REALM – the human forms of the most magnificent sounds of all creation.
Reportedly formed in the London county of Essex, England, Depeche Mode is Andy Fletcher on keys, Martin Gore on guitar, keys, and backing vocals, and David Gahn on vocals. From their massively great songs including “New Life,” “Walking in My Shoes,” “Everything Counts,” “Wrong,” “Barrel of a Gun,” “World in My Eyes,” the massive radio hit “Personal Jesus,” timeless new wave classics including “People are People,” “Policy of Truth,” “It’s a Question of Time,” “Master and Servants,” and the dark, tragic, beautiful “Blasphemous Rumors,” “A Question of Lust,” “I Feel You,” “Shake the Disease,” and countless more, Depeche Mode are beyond words – they are greatness personified.
While most bands lose their edge, creativity, and looks over time, Depeche Mode simply get better with age. Their newest album “Spirit” is outstanding, from “Going Backwards,” to “Where’s the Revolution,” and more, there simply is no other band quite like Depeche Mode – and never will be. Brilliant in every regard from musical composition, songwriting, vocal work, soulfulness, and beyond – the band sounds as fresh, brilliant, modern, and great as ever – and yes, they still look great too.
Many Depeche Mode tracks are just beyond anything – beyond greatness; the searing, haunting “Black Celebration,” “Never Let Me Down Again,” “It’s No Good,” “Enjoy the Silence,” and “Behind the Wheel,” among others, are just heavenly, sonic perfection.
The Global Spirit Tour
Storming the world for their new “Spirit” Tour, The band which has sold over 100 million records world-wide, hit America again this year – selling out stadium after stadium, including this week; a first ever feat of selling out 4 consecutive artist nights at the legendary Hollywood Bowl. The tour will reportedly hit a total of 106 venues, with 70 in Europe, 5 in South America, and 31 in North America, carrying in to 2018, to nearly 2 million or more fans.
It was here on their L.A. stop’s final night that I had the great pleasure and honor to get guest listed just two nights before their final show. Arriving at the Hollywood Bowl, thousands upon thousands of Depeche Mode Fans filled the streets for miles in every direction.
Traffic – an organized madness – snaked around the maze-like streets entering the Hollywood Bowl. I somehow followed a bus down an empty lane, then followed a cop car, at which a traffic officer shouted I was not supposed to be driving where I was, which had not been clear. A happy accident in my favor; my partner quickly took the driver’s seat, and I ran into the Hollywood Bowl.
Hipsters of all ages; young and old, flooded the Hollywood Bowl grounds like a deep-sea of the world’s biggest new-wave dance party. In a city rarely impressed and rarely looking at each other on the streets, the crowd here looked at one another – approvingly accepting each others’ camaraderie in cool.
The Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl itself is a beautiful, massively sized outdoor venue, reportedly holding 17,500 people. At 4 generally sold out nights in one week, this was nearly 70,000 fans that Depeche Mode entertained in Los Angeles in just four days – the population of some cities.
Clean, upscale, and expertly run, The Hollywood Bowl is a world-class venue for world-class acts. I asked two kind guards here where to go, who politely directed me to the VIP ticket area which I jogged over to. The staff at this area was completely professional, polite, organized, and fast. I breezed right in, where a nice staff girl walked me directly to my seat and told me that she hoped I would enjoy the show. With stage-side, standing room area spots – which are great, The Hollywood Bowl is uniquely superior to other stadium venues for this fact alone.
Most massive venues of this size have many far and distant box seats only. The Hollywood Bowl has both – stadium like seating – yet more upscale and cozy, with boxed in seating areas of four lawn chair type seats, and stage-side standing areas to rock and dance in. It also has three huge outdoor video screens, easily showing the band on screen to the fans, for those with seating too far away to view up close.
The sound quality for this show was truly outstanding, with dynamic sound ranges and perfect sound production, as well as great stage lighting. Overhead; two cool white beams of light cut through the blackness, bursting through the sky above the Hollywood Bowl, as if to mark a Stonehenge type metaphysical temple where the mothership has landed; marking its territory miles out into the sky and through the city of angels for this unforgettable night of the spirit.
The Hollywood Bowl has its own gift shop, and various concession windows. Concessions ranged from sushi, chips, water, wine, beer, and hot dogs among more, with water at 4 dollars, chips at 3, wine at 9, and large beers at 12, and sushi around 17. Considering ticket prices started at around 60 or more up to around 250 and even over 500 dollars, the concession prices did not seem unreasonable.
In my seating area, concession lines were slow and long, and they cut serving food, drinks, and even water over an hour before the show even ended – which made no sense. Fortunately, the Hollywood bowl has drinking fountains, which is a civilized, friendly touch not found in many such massive venues where profit is normally put before hospitality. Bathrooms were clean, and plentiful with no wait. Merch booths for Warpaint and Depeche Mode seemed to sell well, but were shorter than the food and beverage lines in my area.
I smelled pot smoke, surprisingly only a few short seconds during the entire show. Cigarette smoke – which normally bothers me as a former smoker, lingered off and on only a short while, and then when it did, was not a problem in the fresh, vast mountain-side air near the Hollywood Hills.
Ticket people checked my ticket every time I left the seating area and re-entered; a very minor nuisance, but worth protecting the band from being ripped off by those trying to sneak in. Metal detector walk-through gates – and a quick check in and return of my wallet, shades, and keys was a reasonable, fast procedure for all, to keep fans safe.
The few cops I saw, were mostly just chilling on their motorcycles – probably enjoying the music. L.A. cops, for those that don’t live here and don’t know, are – unlike some police in some cities – overall laid back and cool to people that don’t start trouble.
Outside – before and mostly after the show, scalpers desperately peddled knock off t-shirts of Depeche Mode for as low as five dollars, where inside the venue, official shirts were 40 dollars – which is not a bad price. Fortunately, I saw no one buying the fakes. Scalpers take away hard-earned money from the artists, and their merchandise is usually terrible quality, that most real fans can tell is fake.
Parking at the Hollywood Bowl is advertised as being limited. Many cars have to do stack parking; meaning they get literally blocked in by rows of other parked cars, and have to wait until the cars in front leave – which seems to me, as someone who hates waiting for anything – like a total nightmare.
Despite getting dropped off, I didn’t plan transport home well enough, as the cabs I called were not available, and I didn’t have time to clear off data from my phone to download Uber.
While I’m sure I could have easily hitched a ride, my days of that are over, so thankfully I got reminded after I started walking, that The Hollywood Bowl is just a few minutes nice walk to Hollywood Boulevard, where two subway stops are located nearby; Hollywood and Vine, and the closest – Hollywood and Highland, right near where the Academy Awards are held.
I took a nice jog to Hollywood Boulevard; past the food street vendors, past the failing scalpers, and past the exited Depeche Mode and Warpaint fans, and beyond a lone suicidal type guy leaving a hotel on a moped that screamed as he ran a red light speeding in to traffic, and hit the train – which of course reminded me of the line from that great new song by Depeche Mode, “Where’s the Revolution?” (The Train is Coming!) that has really great lyrics about how society gets brainwashed and stupefied by the mass political propaganda machine, and how we need to rise up and do more.
Warpaint took the stage promptly at 7:30pm, delivering nearly an hour of amazing, passionate, beautiful songs, like masters of the stage, and completely in their element for a show this size.
The sound for Warpaint was mind-blowingly great, perfectly miked deep and sharp, cutting in every stellar note and minor and major chord to perfection. Tearing out stunning tracks starting with their newer “Heads Up,” they then lead into the brilliant “Elephants,” “So Good,” “Bees,” “Intro,” “Keep It Healthy,” and the beautiful “Love is to Die,” with their newer cut “New Song” next which dominated the night, making a perfect night that was just the beginning. The brilliant punk-like song “Disco” (from the Disco / Very back to back single) closed out the set by this phenomenal, brilliant, beautiful band of rock goddesses.
When New Wave Was Underground
Before 80’s Music was called 80’s music, when it actually ‘was’ the eighties, most so-called 80’s bands that we know of and love today, were, back in the day – called New Wave – and most of them couldn’t even get played on the radio, back when radio actually mattered – before the internet, and before You Tube.
During their earliest years, bands including the Cure, Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, and others were called “New Wave,” and later “alternative” rock. And – those of us that listened to such music – as well as punk rock, were called “freaks.” Duran Duran became more teeny bopper and mainstream – yet stayed great. Depeche Mode was a part of that early new wave scene, and always remained more underground in their sound and fan base in the beginning, yet went on to influence some of the greatest bands of all time after their rise, across multiple genres.
Seeing these legends, for the fourth and final show at the Hollywood Bowl, was itself – mind-blowing. Seeing them with nearly 20,000 other fans – was itself a shock, considering I used to listen, transfixed to Depeche Mode most of my life – starting at around 15 years of age.
Gone were the videos of scantily clad female fashion models – save for the sexy video of a female ballet dancer. Darker images dominated the video backdrops of the stage with images of the band, along with rockets, space scenes, and at times even animals among more – artistically shot, and ranging from color to black and white.
Martin Gore crooned; beautifully singing back up, and with his solo ballads perfectly on key, and his stunning wide range expertly on point. The audience howled with delight at his soaring ballads and romantic voice.
Long standing band member Andy Fletcher was flawless on keys. Supporting guest members Peter Gordeno rounded out more keys, vocals, and bass, and Christian Eigner jammed on drums.
David Gahan reigned; prowling, strutting, and spinning round and round in circles at times – and fluidly waving his arms like a dancerly, gothic angel. His voice – stunningly perfect, ageless, spine tingling, and mesmerizing. The sound of his every vocal intonation filled up each and every cell and fiber of every body under the crisp, cool, perfect fall Hollywood night.
With occasional howls, growls, and “yeah!” shout outs, at times the band broke into seemingly spontaneous back-beat instrumentation for seventeen thousand person strong sing-alongs. They deftly captivated the masses with an impressive, group-like, religious-style experience of Depeche Mode audience voices under the stars. “Yeah! Yeah! Come on! Sing!” Gahn encouraged the audience, “This is Hollywood after all!” – adding to the excitement of this legendary night in the most famous of all cities.
Devastatingly handsome, David Gahn evolved during his career from a boyish, British heart-throb – later in black eyeliner, to a tattooed stud with long jet black hair, to today – a Harley riding Latin-lover-like Rock Star, perfectly in charge of his voice, his body, and the stage. Seducing the already seduced audience; the camera zoomed in on David on a couple of occasions; grabbing his crotch, grinding against the mic stand, and shaking his hips like the sex symbol he also is – which he owns so well.
Opening their set by playing the introduction to The Beatles “Revolution,” Depeche Mode are the consummate professionals. With technical perfection at every turn; every note and every beat blended into a symphony of danceable bliss. If the band made one error – it was undetectable. If there was one dull moment, it was between a fast blink of the eyes.
“Cover Me” instrumental followed, into a brilliant version of “Going Backwards,” “Barrel of a Gun,” “A Pain That I’m Used To,” “Corrupt,” “In Your Room,” “World In My Eyes,” “Cover Me,” “A Question of Lust,” “Home,” “Poison Heart,” “Where’s the Revolution,” “Wrong,” “Everything Counts,” “Stripped,” “Enjoy the Silence,” “Never Let Me Down Again,” and then a short break for an encore.
The band returned to play “Somebody,” and even a Bowie cover of “Heroes,” where David Gahn sang – “You can all be heroes!” to the Hollywood crowd. They continued with “I Feel You,” “Walking In My Shoes” featuring a video of a pretty guy in drag getting dressed up in makeup and heels, and closing the night out with a rocking version of “Personal Jesus.” Ultimately, this show proved to be without question, one of the great moments in the history of music, by one of the greatest bands of all time.
A very special thanks to Depeche Mode, and Columbia Records.
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