“Oh, Tel Aviv!” Depeche Mode lead singer Dave Gahan groaned Tuesday night as HaYarkon Park was transformed into a bubble insulated from whatever turmoil existed outside of its gates.
In fact, the show opened with the image of a purple ball flashing the words “Welcome to My World,” the opening track on the album and the first song they played.
With threats of war and reports of alleged rocket attacks into Syria, Israelis soothed their torment with the perfect salve — the founders of electronic doom pop. Known for their angst-ridden anthems about love, lust and loneliness, Depeche kicked off their “Delta Machine” tour in a near two-and-a-half hour show that felt like a giant party. Despite a new album, which true to its title, is blues laced and chock a block with weighty songs about mortality, pain and spirituality, there was nothing black about this celebration.
In fact, the 35,000 fans who flocked to the open-air field were an exuberant mix of teens to 50-year-olds united by the band’s unstoppable electro beats, catchy pop hooks and Gahan, who held the crowd in sway the whole time with his deep baritone and slow-grind dance moves. At times, he’d whip his hips with his back turned to the crowd, arms overhead like a go-go dancer, strutting back and forth to the beat.
This was not the Gahan from years past, who had suffered a heart-attack onstage in 1993, attempted suicide in 1995, nearly died from an overdose in 1996 and had a cancer diagnosis on their last tour two years ago. Now sober and cancer-free, the 50-year-old frontman is the picture of vigor, flashing tattooed biceps and a ripped torso and filling the arena with a voice that was both commanding and full of pathos. He lent the mic to songwriter and guitarist Martin Gore for three songs, including the obscure “When the Body Speaks,” the first time the track was performed since “Exciter” came out more than a decade ago. And the audience knew the song, lyric by lyric.
The blues may be nothing new to Depeche, but its heavy use of them on many of their new songs made this one of their best shows in well over a decade. The delta theme was anchored by cutouts of triangles and images of the band, rendered retro in sepia-tone or gelatin-print-like, flashing on three large screens in the backdrop. Monochromatic bursts of blue, red and green light bathed the night sky in a colorful haze. By the time Gore, black nail polish on his fingertips and glitter shadow on his eyelids, hit the hypnotic guitar chords of “I Feel You,” the first single off their ’93 album “Songs of Faith and Devotion,” fans were swept into orgiastic fervor.
Despite mixed album reviews, “Delta Machine” held up to older hits seamlessly. In fact, its Robert Cray-style blues licks and below-the-belt rhythms heard on tracks like “Goodbye” were incorporated into old favorites like “Personal Jesus.” Perhaps it’s the new album’s minimal arrangements that lend themselves well to live interpretation, or maybe it’s the catchy melodies that help make many of the new tracks sound like Depeche classics. Whatever the case, the fans sang along to “Heaven,” the first single, or the funky “Soothe My Soul,” one of the night’s high points—though there wasn’t a down moment in the entire evening.
Whether performing old hits like “Precious” or “Just Can’t Get Enough,” or new material like “Should be Higher,” Depeche didn’t disappoint. By the time the band hit their last song “Never Let Me Down,” there was no question they hadn’t.
Welcome to My World
Walking in My Shoes
Policy of Truth
Should be Higher
Barrel of a Gun
Only When I Lose Myself
When the Body Speaks
Soothe My Soul
Pain That I’m Used To
Question of Time
Enjoy the Silence
Halo (Goldfrapp remix)
Just Can’t Get Enough
I Feel You
Never Let Me Down