Why do rock stars have to get old? That’s all I kept thinking Wednesday night (8/15), watching Dave Gahan try to twirl up a storm onstage as Depeche Mode brought the Exciter tour to the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Gahan is game, strutting around stage but sliding up his mic stand, he looks more like a middle-aged stripper, and Martin Gore’s all energy, moving to the music but that guitar looks way too big for his tiny frame. And Andy Fletcher … well, Andy Fletcher’s doing nothing, but it’s cool ’cause its Depeche Mode, right?
The answer is a sighing yeah, I guess. Musically, the Mode has never sounded better than tonight. Both Gore and Gahan’s voices are strong, and the band is a well-oiled synth machine. They choose, however, to display their talents on material from Exciter, a good album, but certainly not their best. “Dream On,” “The Dead Of Night” and “I Feel Loved” sound great, but they don’t carry as well live simply because these songs don’t have the history. There’s no “Master And Servant” or “People Are People” to get the crowd juiced. We have to be content with the few older hits pulled from Violator and Ultra like “It’s No Good” and “Personal Jesus.”
Still, when Gahan’s at his best, he’s one of the most enigmatic frontmen around. When the band comes back for a spirited encore of “Clean” and “Black Celebration,” the crowd loses it, and you’re reminded why you love the Mode to begin with. It’s just a shame you can’t entirely shake the lazy feeling of the night and the sentiment that Depeche Mode are on the losing end of their fight with middle age.