PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Reviews

Dave Gahan

Mike Prevatt
Dave Gahan

Dave Gahan

City: Los Angeles
Venue: The Wiltern
Date: 2003-08-25
:. e-mail this article
:. print this article
:. comment on this article
Dave Gahan, known the world 'round as the lead singer of seminal synth-pop band Depeche Mode, is one over-the-top performer. You may not know this, seeing how the act's lore doesn't exactly travel well among the generation Linkin Park built. But, beyond the phenomenal, if somewhat underplayed fact that DM still sells out arenas all over the planet, it's a travesty among those who have seen the British band play that Gahan's name rarely comes up among rock's most charismatic and physical frontmen. He certainly made the case for it during his solo gig at the Wiltern in Los Angeles on August 25 -- one of two SoCal shows ending his tour's American leg. His pelvic thrusts, mic-stand pumping, Rockers-on-Ice twirling, crotch grabs, hip gyrations, ass pouting, non-lyrical yelping -- and much more -- are so prevalent and frequent during his concerts, you nearly forget all the other elements on stage. Armed with a formidable voice that has only strengthened and improved over the years, and an Ironman-like stamina rockers half his age would give up their artist development deals for, Gahan can command a crowd of any size (check Depeche Mode documentary 101, and watch him enrapture 70,000 delirious fans), provoking shrieks and sing-a-longs that pale those by future arena rock king Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba gobsmacked. In a way, Gahan is the prototype emo singer. But where Carrabba drowns himself in self-pity, Gahan has made his angst resonant and sexy. And that's a large part of his appeal. It's no surprise he would record an album on his own, then tour liberally in support of it. While the '80s output from DM was solely the vision of the band's songwriter and sometimes singer, Martin Gore, its '90s material reflected more of Gahan's personality. Albums like Violator, Songs of Faith and Devotion and Ultra felt like revelations of dirty secrets, lurking in an underworld that didn't bemoan capitalism and the irony of organized religion (as did the first half of the band's discography). Rather, those later albums seemed to get their inspiration from blues and gospel music, as well as impressionistic moods and concepts. Songs were seedy, brooding and reflective all at once. Spirituality and sensuality found a common ground. DM had never sounded so desperate, and much of that was channeled through the pain in Gahan's voice and personal life. Much of that is also found on his recent solo release, Paper Monsters, and this time, it is his interpretation of dependence, struggle and redemption, not Gore's. This partially explains why the gig at the Wiltern saw the 41-year-old artist at his most emotionally convincing. Even when he was at his Dionysian worst, you never questioned the genuineness of his performance. Every passionately delivered note and bodily lunge seemed compelled by the frankness and desperation of the songs, from the ballad "Stay" to the bottomed-out single, "Dirty Sticky Floors", the former inspired by his daughter, and the latter rooted in his days of drug-n-drink excess. Not that Gahan needed to convince anyone else in the Wiltern of his legitimacy. He was preaching to the converted, a 2,000-person sampling of an enormous cult following Depeche Mode enjoys in Los Angeles (hence the closing of the American tour there). While most of the crowd in attendance were there to hear DM songs, a good number of them already knew the words to the songs from Paper Monsters, and proved it by singing along. They were often able to match Gahan's energy, and that's saying something. Gahan paced the show with a steady, growing transcendence, starting with most of the high-energy solo material, easing into mellower songs like "A Little Piece" and "Bitter Again", while sprinkling the main set at the right times with DM classics like "A Question of Time" and "Walking in My Shoes". Things headed toward climax during the feverish "Walking", followed by the pulsating "I Need You" (with the addition of the falsetto chorus from the Rolling Stones' "Miss You"), the playful boogie stomp of "Bottle Living" (the second single, and best song from Monsters), and the ecstasy of the equally-bluesy "Personal Jesus". The four-song suite could have rivaled the concert peaks of bands like U2 and R.E.M. The execution of the Gahan's pick-up band -- guitarist/co-songwriter Knox Chandler, former Porno For Pyros bassist Martyn Lenoble, keyboardist Vincent Jones and drummer Victor Indrizzo -- sounded big league as well, and more assertive and urgent than the singer's usual touring cohorts. For the encores, Gahan kept it strictly on the DM tip, which suited the fans just fine. But for each moment of euphoria, another seemed awkward or forced. The first encore got off to a poor start with "I Feel You", plagued by excessive gravitas from Gahan's lack of vocal restraint. "Never Let Me Down Again", however, was explosive, as if Metallica were covering it. Fans needed little prompting to take over vocal duties, as well as initiating Gahan's window-washer arm sway -- made famous from 101, and now a staple of every show. For the second encore, Gahan and the band went acoustic, from a too-lounge-like version of "Policy of Truth", to the more effortless "Enjoy the Silence". The latter song was riddled by a chorus or two from Depeche Mode's first hit single, "Just Can't Get Enough", but it was an apt addition, not just to further stir the crowd -- allegedly, the uniqueness of the acoustic encore is determined by audience receptiveness -- but in its lyrical implication. Gahan played for over 90 minutes sans his longtime band, and his faithful and devoted wanted more. That's remarkable, given the motions most artists go through when they're either a) coasting on hits during a nostalgia tour, or b) indulging themselves on a solo jaunt. This felt like neither. Halfway during the show, Martin Gore was spotted in the audience. One wonders what he made of recent press interviews, where his vocalist bandmate has strongly implied he'll participate on another DM album only if he can finally contribute songs and/or ideas as well, or the show itself. Surely, Gore wouldn't have been surprised at the emphatic display Gahan exhibited onstage, but the confidence he showed by carrying the concert on his own, and the added vitality of the material in the live setting. Even if DM degenerates into one of those revival acts who tour off old chestnuts, its fans can rest assured that, creatively, Gahan is just getting started.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.