In the first of five Hollywood Bowl specials ("Five you say? There were only four gigs....") we welcome Kristin Vogel-Campbell to review duties with her recap on Night 1 on October 12th. Kristin has written a wonderful review that genuinely makes you feel like you're there at the gig as you read it. The Hollywood Bowl shows were all special and this review is a superb way to start off the feature on those gigs. All pictures unless otherwise credited are Kristin's too so no thievery. Finally, Kristin, me and my mate John started singing "the graph...the graph" at the Olympic Stadium gig in London too. We were also met with bemused looks. Glad to see you are a kindred..ahem..Spirit.
Hello! It’s my absolute pleasure to write the review for night one of the historic four show run at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. From Richard Blade championing them on the airwaves of KROQ, to the ‘101’ Rose Bowl concert, the Wherehouse “riot” in 1990, to Dave’s temporary residence in LA during a period of reimagination and almost complete self-destruction, and Martin’s residence in Santa Barbara for almost twenty years, it is evident California loves Depeche Mode, and Depeche Mode have certainly returned the love in many different ways.
A little about myself: I’m originally from New York City, and have lived in San Francisco, California for the past eleven years. My first Depeche Mode concert was in 1994, when I got to see them perform on the Exotic Tour at Jones Beach in Long Island. The fourth Hollywood Bowl show marked my 40th Depeche Mode concert, and I get to see them three more times next month when I fly to England. I’m a truly lucky gal to have met so many friends along the way.
The Hollywood Bowl is an absolutely gorgeous venue, and should be on any live music aficionado's bucket list. Situated at the base of the Hollywood Hills, the Hollywood Bowl has been an active performance venue since the 1920s. It’s been the location of concerts by The Beatles, The Doors, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Prince, Nine Inch Nails, and The Muppets.
Depeche Mode played here in August of 2009 during Tour of the Universe, and I was at both of those concerts with my friend Missy, who I had met online on the DMMB. She and I had planned to do twelve US shows together during TOTU before ever actually meeting. After having planned a nearly three week trip around the country we met for Thai food one evening and the friendship was solidified. My Delta Machine tour was only three shows in 2013, due to starting a new job and having just moved in with my then boyfriend (now husband). Missy went to nearly a dozen shows that tour as well, and made sure to text or call after to give me some highlights. When the band held a press conference in October 2016 to announce plans for a new album and tour we spoke later in the day and immediately began to map out what we could do.
Tragically, Missy fell extremely ill this January, and passed away on February 25th, 2017. My heart breaks every time I think of how she is no longer with us, and my first few shows on this tour (Las Vegas, San Diego, San Jose, Oakland) were very tough, especially during ‘Home’, which was one of her favorite songs.
For the first night of Hollywood Bowl, a few friends and I planned a “nosebleed party” in section R1. Like many fans who participated in the spam your friends and buy copious amounts of albums fiasco that led up to the ticket buying process, I was royally screwed with tickets for the first two shows in Los Angeles, but we made the best of it by gathering a group of hardcore fans to take over the top sections of the Bowl with loud cheering and singalongs. My good friend Jamie Highland (of MSG Night 2 write up fame - http://almostpredictablealmost1.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/live-review-depeche-mode-madison-square_13.html), always introduces our himself and our group to those around us…”We’re crazy fans, we stand up and dance and sing the entire time”. Fortunately everyone around us seemed okay with six fanatics in their midst.
|Kristin (left) and Mr Highland (2nd from right)|
Full disclosure...I did not get to my seat in time to see Warpaint for this show, but I tried. It took me nearly twenty minutes to get from the bottom level where I was having my pre-show libation with the 1% ers (aka those in the coveted Pool section) to my high altitude seat. I had had the pleasure of seeing them twice before in Las Vegas and San Jose, and they are decent. Check them out.
As the lights go down Cover Me (Alt Out) comes on. I’m so hyped; this show is finally happening! Martin, Fletch, Peter, and Christian come onstage, followed by Dave who starts us off with Going Backwards against a paint splatter display. The words to this song have haunted me ever since Las Vegas. I flew out of Vegas six hours before the massacre at the country concert and had friends who had stayed behind for one more day on the Strip. All of my friends made it out safely, but something has to be done. We’ve become numb to these kinds of incidents...we feel nothing inside.
So Much Love is next. I was almost certain that this would be the second single; it just has that feel. I absolutely adore the background video shot by Anton Corbijin, so perhaps there is a chance for a fourth single. I can hear this on the radio and getting some airplay. We’ll see.
Ultra is my favorite Depeche Mode album, but Barrel Of A Gun is not the song from that album I would have picked for this setlist. It seems bloated and is slowed down at times. I’m a big fan of the snippet from “The Message” towards the end of the song. For an English dude in his 50s Dave’s still got the sass and swagger, as evidenced by his brushing the dirt off his shoulder at the end. A Pain That I’m Used To brings Peter Gordeno out front and center playing bass. It’s definitely a funkier version than we have heard in the past, but in my opinion it’s missing the edge it has on the album version and the live version from Touring The Angel.
Corrupt is one of the highlights for me in the first part of the setlist. I was genuinely surprised to hear this at my first show (I had managed to go setlist spoiler free from the beginning of the tour until my first show in Vegas). Corrupt is a sexy, dirty song, and I absolutely LOVE it! Dave turned on the extra camp for this song, especially with the “little finger” gestures he made in time with some of the suggestive lyrics. Thank you sir, may I have another? To quote a good friend “the song is a damn panty dropper”.
After giving us barely enough time to towel off, the band launches into In Your Room....the ALBUM version!! I’m sure I’m not the only one who was definitely tired of the mix they had been using since forever. Accompanied by another of Anton’s amazing concert visuals, this song sounds as fresh as it did during the Devotional Tour. In the first major audience participation of the night, our sextet added the “gospel” backing vocals towards the end of the song (a la Devotional). Thankfully, Dave didn’t catch on, so there was no stage diving.
World In My Eyes isn’t one of my favorite songs but it’s special because we see how much Dave loves grabbing his junk. He does it, several times, and holds on for dear life. Homeboy, it’s not going to fall off.
Rounding out the first part of the set is Cover Me. Anton’s video for the third single from the album supports the band in the background, and Dave is absolutely into this song live. A surprise to all of us, he walks off the stage onto a platform that separates the Pool section from the rest of the venue, and stopped to hold one lucky fan’s hand while he showed off his core strength. Dave moving slowly along to the music is a thing to behold, and had the audience cheering as he walked off stage for a breather.
Now for the part of the show that is slowly becoming my favorite: Martin’s songs. I’ve been a Dave girl for nearly 30 years, but this tour Martin is just doing something for me. I don’t know...maybe it’s the beer. The possibility of changes in the set list are highest for Martin’s section of the setlist…..aaaand A Question of Lust. So this is setlist one. No big deal. A Question of Lust is beautiful, and this is truly the first time you hear the majority of the Hollywood Bowl singing along. There were even a few lighters being held high in the audience. Total nostalgia trip. Our group of six sing along at the top of our lungs, and lock arms in a large waving hug.
Inevitably, Home comes next, and this is when I begin to tear up. Thankfully, I don’t ugly cry like I did in San Diego. A few tears slide down my cheek, and I look up at the stars, trying to find my friend. Towards the end of the song, when Martin plays conductor with the crowd and prompts us to sing “oooooooh oooooooh aaaaahh” our posse sings at the top of our lungs, and commands the rest of our section to join us. I don’t know who else around us is singing along, I just keep focused on moving my arms in time with Martin’s, and keeping the chant alive. The Hollywood Bowl manages to pull it off, and Dave come out to congratulate us on a job well done.
Poison Heart...meh. The song doesn’t really do much for me.
Where’s The Revolution could have been an anthem for our twisted times. The lyrics, like many of the songs on Spirit, are so on point. Something doesn’t connect the way the band wants it to, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a very strong song live. I spend the majority of this song with my fist in the air, like the good radical I am, that just spent nearly $100 to see a concert, but I’m with the 99% in Section R1 so all is right with the world.
The trio of songs that followed: Wrong, Everything Counts, and Stripped represent three distinct times in Depeche Mode’s career. Wrong has always worked well live, and I missed it during the Delta Machine Tour. Dave’s snarl when he shout/sings “WRONG!” into the microphone, is raw and full of energy. The transition to Everything Counts builds up to more and more people in the audience recognizing the song until almost everyone shouts with excitement. Our group added “the graph...the graph” chants, which got some quizzical looks from those around us. The ending of Everything Counts was absolutely electric; with pretty much every member of the audience singing along. There isn’t much I can say about Stripped that hasn’t been said before. I get goosebumps at the beginning of this song every time I hear it live. It’s a pure masterpiece; some of my favorite lyrics that Martin has ever written.
Rounding out the main part of the set are two more lynchpins Enjoy the Silence and Never Let Me Down Again. Both are songs I think I have heard every time I’ve seen Depeche Mode live, but the band brings so much energy to the songs they don’t seem stale. Given that, if I had the choice to pick other songs from their catalogue I absolutely would, but I don’t have that power as a fan. The Hollywood Bowl and The Rose Bowl are only fifteen miles apart, and some of the energy from the 101 concert may have rubbed off on the crowd. Everyone was on their feet and moving their arms along to the wheat wave, and no rotator cuffs were torn.
|Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group|
The five song encore was comprised of five songs: Somebody, Walking In My Shoes, “Heroes”, I Feel You and Personal Jesus. I was kind of amazed when some of the people around us left after NLMDA! I was hoping to hear a different Martin song, but since this is setlist one I wasn’t completely surprised. “Walking In My Shoes” is accompanied by an amazing background video that mesmerizes me every time I see it. The first time I heard “Heroes” I cried at how beautiful it was. Other than Depeche Mode, David Bowie is my favorite artist, and his death still affects me. The black flag backdrop fits in with the Spirit art and theme, but is also a sign of mourning Bowie’s passing.
Every time Dave sings “ Feel You his vocal chords die a little. Please just stop. I love it but it needs to go. Sorry SOFAD lovers.
|Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group|
Finally, it’s time for Personal Jesus. What a way to round out the show. Everyone knows this song. At this point in the show Dave must be exhausted, but I can’t tell. He continues to prance and strut around the stage, Jagger-esque, microphone stand in hand. Before we know it, the show is over and the band takes a bow, except for poor Fletch who can barely move his back. Three more Hollywood Bowl shows to go, and tons of parties and revelry ensue.
Thanks for reading my review; and I hope that you get the opportunity to see Depeche Mode on the Global Spirit Tour! If you’re going to the shows in Manchester, Birmingham, or London, I would love to meet!