Depeche Mode at Patriot Center

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Depeche Mode at Patriot Center on December 9, 2005

Depeche Mode photophoto courtesy and © Depeche Mode

If the 1990s had a god, it was Depeche Mode, and if that god had a kingdom, it would resemble Depeche Mode’s stage at the Patriot Center on December 9.

The look might have been described as “interplanetary punk.” A moon-sized orb hung in midair, inset with scrolling computer screens and neon inscriptions of words like “sex,” “pain” and “love.” The trademark synthesizers were enthroned in semicircular silver pods. The backdrop was a massive black curtain featuring the feathered silhouette displayed on the band’s aptly named 2005 release, “Playing the Angel.”

First impressions of the crowd didn’t mesh with this otherworldly atmosphere. Unlike the hordes that gathered to worship Depeche Mode a decade or two ago, this congregation looked, well, normal. There was not a single eye-lined, dour teenage misfit in sight – just thousands of amiable 30-somethings. They wore pashminas and leather coats, or else sat uncomfortably in business casual, not having had a chance to change out of corporate wear before gathering to recant their alternative heydays. This observer wondered whether the devout Depechians had lost their faith.

But then everything went black, and then glowed neon blue, then red. The globe’s screen scrolled a digital “HELLO” – and the demure crowd was on its feet to give their idols a proper welcome. They remained upright for the 21-song, two-hour show.

Dave Gahan, clearly the Zeus of these Olympians, sashayed on stage in a suit. The top half was eventually shed so Gahan could properly flaunt his perfectly toned torso – astounding for a 43-year-old former heroin addict. A forever-upstaged Martin Gore began the night looking like a discarded black angel, complete with plastic headdress, Mohawk and shredded wings. And Andrew “Fletch” Fletcher and the drummer and that other keyboardist – they were there, too.

Back to Dave. After all, he was quite obviously the star of the affair, as he has been for 25 years with Depeche Mode. His immaculate body was matched by his unblemished voice, which largely guided the show through the band’s entire musical odyssey. The shouting and fist pumping of the crowd were no less enthusiastic for new songs (“John The Revelator”; “Precious”) than they were for old classics (“Enjoy the Silence”; “Policy of Truth”).

Like the original Greek gods, Gahan is no saint. He admitted as much while strutting around shirtless singing “The Sinner in Me” and “Personal Jesus.” He is instead sex on a stage, a fact that was never acknowledged more than during “World in My Eyes.” “Let my body do the talking,” he sang, grabbing his groin to accentuate the sultry sermon.

Usually the silent songwriter, Gore took the mic for “Suffer Well” and “Damaged People.” The latter was met with much more enthusiasm, maybe because he finally removed his headdress, or maybe because, as one crowd member blurted: “I always thought that song was by Dave Gahan!” Regardless, Gore was met with one of the warmest receptions of the night for his rendition of his piano-driven ballad, “Somebody.”

During the two encores, the congregation agreed that they “Just Can’t Get Enough,” prayed that Gahan would “Never Let Me Down Again” and were already mourning by the end of “Goodnight Lovers.” They left looking ethereal, cleansed from corporate life by this big-stage baptism.

But there was a doubter in the mix. A fan brought his young son to bathe in the splendor of Depeche Mode – and possibly consider him “the coolest dad ever” as a bonus. The boy spent the entirety of the concert slumped in his seat, most likely imploring his own god (50 Cent?) for salvation. Though their faith is strong, the Depechians may be a dying breed.

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