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Devotional Era

Dark Forces In The Limelight

Document par Louise Gray | The Times | 1993 | 3628 caractères. Temps de lecture : 2 min 44 sec

This was a billing of consummate strangeness. Both Depeche Mode - electro-poppers turned rockers - and the Sisters of Mercy - an archly gothic band - have their own devotional and very separate followings. Both bands were making their sole British appearances for this year on a single stage. Sisters fans, clad in all kinds of black Nosferatu chic, mingled with Depeche followers, dressed to a man in a variety of tour shirts. Despite a passing similarity in the subject matter both bands concern themselves with - that is, doomy, febrile love songs that at times beg for Freudian analysis - it was clear that two markedly different agendas were operating.

Given their predilection for dark and smoky atmospherics, Andrew Eldritch and his two guitar-wielding Sisters - Andreas Bruhn and Adam Pearson - had a lot of daylight to contend with. Arriving on stage at Crystal Palace with typically minimal ceremony, their smoke machines belching like a giant uncontrolled barbecue, it took several songs before the Sisters swung into their impressive stride. Doktor Avalanche - a bass and drum machine - punched out rapid staccato beats while Eldritch worked through a sinuous gestural vocabulary to great effect. «More», «Detonation Boulevard» and the intricate weavings of «Alice» were greeted by thunderous cheers as the sun sank behind the horizon. Two hit singles - «Temple of Love» and «This Corrosion» - were magnificent, encapsulating the Sisters’ tenor of cruel and unrequited lust, while an encore of «Flood» and «Vision Thing» were everything that rock’n’roll requires to maintain its edgy power.

All the while, Depeche Mode fans waved brown folders marked with crosses. These were not, as they seemed at first glance, some talisman to ward off any ethereal presences conjured up by Eldritch, but souvenir programmes to mark their band’s latest album, Songs of Faith and Devotion. The group was masterfully theatrical. An electronically generated thunder storm preceded Depeche Mode’s arrival on the gaping stage, where singer David Gahan cavorted, below the large light-boxes on which his three-strong band were perched. From first song - «Higher Love» - to last - «Everything Counts» - Gahan was accompanied by a stadium filled with word-perfect fans.

There was something monumental about the proceedings and it was a performance of poise and skill. Since their early Eighties’ incarnation as bleach-haired Basildon boys singing songs of love to the accompaniment of electronic keyboards, Depeche Mode have grown up in public. Their mature sound, provided by the writing skills of Martin Gore, is tailored for a stadium audience. Their growing thoughtfulness loses nothing in the translation to such massive success.

There were some nice touches. A string quartet, making a brief appearance for «One Caress», provided a lush texture to the massive sweeps of Alan Wilder and Andrew Fletcher’s synthesizers. Gahan has become a communicative, sympathetic frontman of considerable appeal. Gore, who ventured down stage for «Judas», «Caress» and «Mercy In You», has the warmer voice which resonates with an intimacy unencumbered by the overwhelming orchestrations of their songs.

The moon was high as Depeche Mode swung into the swampy blues riff of their first encore, «Personal Jesus», and the stage glowed blue under arc lights. If the audience filed out, believing themselves to have been touched by a real presence, they would not have been mistaken.

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