Today's review comes courtesy of blog contributor, Home moderator, much traveled Devotee and all round good chap Sean Salo. It seems a long time since I met up with Sean in Stockholm for gig number one on the tour and now he's back on home turf, seeing the band at various venues around America. This venue is one of those odd casino based venues that British fans like me can't get our heads round. For example, if Depeche played any of the casinos here in Glasgow, their career would definitely have taken a distinctly odd turn. It's different in America of course, and so, when it came to reporting on the Uncasville (no - I'd never heard of it before this tour either) show, there was only one man for the job. As you'd expect, this is a great read - thanks Sean for that and for all the cool pictures.
Depeche Mode fans have created community around the experience of seeing the band live. Oftentimes, seeing old friends who share a passion for the band is as much a part of the experience of DM live as seeing the band play. This factor tends to be heightened when the band plays at destination cities or venues, that attract groups of hardcore fans outside of the immediate locals. Las Vegas, Berlin, London, Los Angeles, and…Uncasville?
Casinos shows have become a reality of the band’s North American itineraries, but this was the first time the band played at the Mohegan Sun Casino, let alone in the state of Connecticut. The venue’s equidistant location between New York and Boston makes it a draw from both metropolitan areas. This was also the closest show to the latter since the Tour of the Universe, so it provided the only chance for New Englanders to see the band on their own turf.
Arriving at the casino, digital signs alerted patrons of that night’s show at the arena. The gleaming, mirrored glass tower stands like a monolith piercing the rural surroundings. The casino itself doesn’t feel like cosmopolitan Vegas, but is largely filled with retirees. The Black Swarm stands in stark contrast to the blue-haired clientele.
I’d purchased the “Hospitality Package” tickets, which – in addition to front of floor tickets – included a pre-show reception, early access to merch stands, a messenger-style bag, and a venue-specific tour lanyard. The reception was held in the casino’s Cabaret Theatre, where a rotation of DM singles was being played for the few dozens of us in the large room. I’ll admit that my friend Craig and I had eaten before the reception, but we each received a couple of drink tickets, and we partook. Having gone to the first show of the band’s official tour itinerary in Stockholm, and having done the VIP experience there, I’ll say that this one left a lot to be desired in comparison. The mood was far less of a party atmosphere and more of a cold reception with little-to-no interaction between fans and the VIP staff.
|"But I need to drink more than...well...one drink"|
From the reception, we went into the venue. I was thrilled with the tickets we had, which were on the stage right side of the venue, just 4 rows from Martin. For this tour, this will have been the closest I’ll experience the show, and I’m glad we chose the premium seats. Though I brought in a point-and-shoot camera, I was close enough that my iPhone 7+ photos were sufficiently good for the experience. I generally inform those around me at shows that I plan to be on my feet the whole time and loud, but that was not an anomaly in this section. Those of us who paid to be this close were there to worship and testify at the church of Gore, Gahan and Fletcher.
Much has already been written about the show, whose setlists have varied minimally, so I won’t be breaking new ground here. But the show opener of Going Backwards sets the tone for the first part of the generally mid-tempo set. Dave appears along the full stage riser in front of giant screens, almost being enveloped by the pixels, merging man with technology, in some ways in contrast to the seemingly organic primary and bold color blobs of the background and the rocky, guitar-forward mix of the live version of the song. The colorful backdrop leads to much starker Anton Corbijn video backdrop for So Much Love, a track that picks up the energy level quite a bit for those who haven’t studied the album like we devotees have. The band clearly take themselves with a grain of salt, as seen in the black-and-white film, showing them standing generally still in front of a chain link fence, but with lots of the attitude Corbijn’s art direction for the band has used to help define the last 30 years of their brand. With resolution so high on these stage-dominating screens, the band on the stage gets to take a bit of a breather from theatrics while the band on screen is larger than life. I will say that in some ways, the screens might be used a bit too much overall, almost like a crutch in this tour. But with videos as stunning as these, including the aforementioned So Much Love, Cover Me, In Your Room and Walking in My Shoes, they might be forgiven.
For a transient casino audience, Connecticut surprised me with enthusiasm. It’s tough to say whether I would’ve felt this way had my seats been in the upper deck, but from my vantage point, the crowd was eating it up once the revised intro to World in My Eyes gives way to the bass-heavy crowd-pleaser.
In the era of having everything spoiled by social media and message boards, it’s great to see fans genuinely excited when they realize they’re hearing fan faves like A Question of Lust and Everything Counts, but the "Heroes" cover is the one that I hadn’t expected to still surprise fans live, as it’s been documented so proficiently. While some feel the version lacks teeth, I think the audiences have responded to it with great respect and fervor at each show I’ve experienced.
There are songs that many of us can live without hearing again in a live setting. Stripped will never be one of those, and I’ll fight you to the death if you imply it is. I am not a fan of the snowy static background used as the band plays the BC-era game changer that set a new sonic tone for the band, but there cannot be a poor version of Stripped. The laws of nature, physics, math and the universe prohibit it. Just pure bliss.
The main set’s closer of NLMDA had floor the 10,000-capacity arena vibrating, and had many fans breaking the DM commandment of “Thou shalt not wheat wave until the Lord, thy Gahan, instructs you”, but that’s not an issue specific to any one audience. The Swarm is eager.
The intoxication of seeing the band (and my general intoxication) made my choice to have booked a room at the hotel a very wise one. And this worked out well, with various clans of us gathering to reminisce about the show the show, gush over our favorite moments, moan over others, and reconnect as we do about once every four years.