Artist: Depeche Mode
Title: Live In Berlin
Genre: Electronic (is it ?)
Release Date : 14th November 2014
Label: Smi Col (Sony Music)
Those are some really strange times for a growing number of DEPECHE MODE fans. I'm using “strange” not to say “sad” in fact. Oh sure, and this DVD testified it, there is still an “army of devotees” around the world that will follow, support and fight for DEPECHE MODE until their last breath... whatever they do, say, sing, release. It's DEPECHE, end of the story. And there is the other ones. Not holding their breath at each Dave's dance move and focusing on their music, their art... or what used to be art. The fans that grew in the 80/90's with the “At the time 4 kids from Basildon”. And then they were three. And then...
As you may have noticed in my previous MODE's review... I'm a faithful soldier of this 2nd army. And today, I officially become a deserter. Sorry, can't make it any longer with... “this”. I've started the discovery of this ‘Live In Berlin’ by the audio CD. And I must admit I was pleasantly surprised... but at the same time, an uncontrollable anger grew inside of me track after track. Why? Because to me, this Live album is a Fuc***g scam. A Live album is supposed to be a transcription of a concert isn't it? But this has NOTHING to do with what we've heard during the tour. Having attended four gigs (Stadium and Arena) in three different countries, I can't say the crap sound I've experienced was because of a bad gig or bad luck. No... Apart from the gig in Nîmes, which on most tracks was the closest to the album I've heard, on the three other gigs, the sound was simply horrible. Guitars (if we can call those noises some guitar sound) were surrounding everything, drums were flat, and none of those shades could be heard...
So when I first heard ‘Welcome To My World’, ‘Angel’, ‘Walking In My Shoes’ and, let's cut the story short, the all album, I was like “Oh my god, there are plenty of little new synth sounds here and there, the mixing is damn clear...” Ok, a live album – thanks for that – will always sound better than a concert in itself. But when I listen to a SIMPLE MINDS, PETER GABRIEL, THE CURE, OMD or any other that I attended, there's not such a major discordance between the live and the album result. There, I just simply got the feeling I haven't seen that band live. But let's try to put the anger aside and focus on the album and pretend we don't know about the real thing. After a perfect ‘Welcome To My World’ that could almost remind of ‘Black Celebration’ era, ‘Angel’ turns out to be a very good track compared to the studio version. ‘Walking In My Shoes’ is magnified by this new synth groovy gimmick and synth basses, and yes, it's very powerful.... but the ending with Christian going all over the place is a bit over the top (and it will become worse and worse during the concert). ‘Precious’ follows and confirms it's now a classic of the band. And let's be honest, probably the only Live classic of DEPECHE in... 17 years!
When ‘Black Celebration’ cult intro starts, goose bumps starts too. Until the drums come wasting it. Come on guys! This is a poor middle of the road hard rock drummer demonstration we got here. Of all the hymns that went through the “rock formula” treatment, this one is probably the one that suffered the most. It had lost all of its soul, of it's cold robotic pace. And I rather not talk of those new synth sounds here. All those months, weeks, hours spent at the time to create some never heard before sounds, with some soul, sweat and blood in it... switched for factory pre-sets used by any synth pop act. Fortunately, ‘Should Be Higher’ comes next, and this one is a smash. Dave's voice is at its peak and the full band performance here is splendid. First song (6th of the album) where I put the volume to the max, have goose bumps for the full five minutes and sing along. Eigner's drums are, on this song, just perfect. Yes! A ray of hope illuminates my cold English autumn day. DEPECHE MODE is there 100%.
And, hopefully, it's not the end as the band delivers probably the best performance of ‘Policy Of Truth’ in years. Can somebody explain why Eigner is capable of hitting a real kicking ass snare on that one and still not manage to have ‘Never Let Me Down’ sounds reasonably powerful? We'll come to that one later. Here, Eigner's play is subtle, groovy, powerful without being “too much”. After this, I feel like finally getting into the concert... and that's the moment where boredom strikes. ‘The Child Inside’ gives the feeling of being in a lounge bar at the Happy hour. It's not the worst Martin song, that's sure. But the song is totally ruined by this “kind of” Rhodes synth. Gordeno is not a bad musician of course. He won't be there otherwise. It's just that he is completely out of it. This guy should play with Elton John or Rod Stewart.
The 2nd is frustrating, to say the least. Choosing ‘But Not Tonight’ for sure is a fan gift. No one on earth would have bet a dime of having it live one day. But the surprise is unfortunately wasted. Wasted by 24 years of “acoustic bit at the middle of the set”, and most of all, ruined by 16 years of Gordeno/ Gore piano bar session. There used to be a time when Alan and Martin were doing that too... at 1 or 2 in the morning in the Hotel bar, generally “a bit” drunk, for a couple of devotees... because in DEPECHE MODE philosophy, this kind of exercise was for fun only but absolutely not at its place in DM gig. And of course... since ‘Waiting For The Night’ in 2001 and, at that time, the splendid improvised sing along by fans, we now have on every tour, every gig the new “oh oh ooooooh” by the audience, joined by Dave, blah bah blah...
‘Heaven’, the most boring and common single the band had ever released, is a bit better live, thanks to Christian and some additional synths here and there... but soon our low cost Mozart put his piano everywhere, mostly where it's useless. I have to note that Gahan's performance is brilliant... apart from those “clichés” in the end. Who would have expect to hear “I Still Love You” in a Mode's song one day? Hopefully, a truly kicking sequence comes next: ‘Soothe My Soul’ and the Jacques Lucont Remix' of ‘A Pain I'm Used To’. Just like the previous ‘Should be Higher’/ ‘Policy of Truth’ sequence, DEPECHE MODE is back here. Loud and clear. Powerful, electronically driven, focused, Dave and Martin duetting perfectly, nice synth basses on ‘Soothe my Soul’... even though it looks like Gordeno have a tendency of using always the same pattern. Up to you to choose: the piano bar or the synth bass. “Mister 2 sounds in stock”. Having said that, the ending of ‘Soothe my Soul’ is so ridiculous. Come on guys! Is this a competition of all the rocky “clichés” you're up to?
Hopefully, ‘A Pain I'm Used To’ starts next and for once, Peter is worth something... playing bass! We meet again with the band who used to comes on stage with new versions inspired by the best remixes. If there are any new tour in the future, it's up to the band to turn this one into the 2nd classic of millennium. Another track from ‘Playing The Angel’ by the way. And after? To the exception of ‘Halo’ in the encores, what follow is probably the worst nightmare I could have been through. A total demolition of decades of hard work, the death on air of what was one of the most innovative band of the last 30 years. The turning of a band... into a parody of itself. I've seen some better tribute bands in my life. Oh, sure. There are a couple of good moments yet. Yes, ‘Enjoy The Silence’ remains ‘Enjoy The Silence’. Apart from the ridiculous drums transition between chorus and electro break. There are some excellent sounds and gimmicks... ruined once again by the synth sound that replaces this unique choir sound build by Alan Wilder using Martin's voice. But the magic is not there because everything is so predictable. The intro, the song, the break, the guitar gimmick and the “Ladies and Gentleman Mister blah blah blah”. The same, over and over again... 1990, 1993/94, 1998, 2001, 2006, 2009, 2014... the same.
Can we go worse than this? Oh yes. Wait to hear ‘Personal Jesus’... I've lost them here and if I had not this review to do, I would have press the stop button. The cult “Kraftwerk Synthie Electonic Blues” that had been one of the most creative and influential single ever, for many years the best-selling Maxi Single ever sold by Warner, stealing the crown to NEW ORDER's ‘Blue Monday’. Yes, that song. That hymn... An awful three minutes intro of anaesthesia to start with. Could we have ever imagine something slower than ‘Pipeline’? And then it starts... and then I cried. And watched the end of this show, a succession of artistic suicides. And I ask myself “How can I review this?”. How can I talk about Dave's Chicken dance (or was it a duck?)... Come on! Where's the dignity? Where's the respect of a 30 years legacy? Chicken dance for Christ sake! Should I talk about this awful and painful version of ‘Just Can't Get Enough’? An insult to Vince Clarke and Daniel Miller work. The most horrible synth sounds I've heard. Even AND ONE in their worst kitsch plastic productions sounded millions years ahead of technical progress compared to those plastic sounds. Should I talk about ‘Never Let Me Down Again’? The stars are not shinning so bright in the sky of Berlin.
Sorry... no. I cannot carry on. No... I don't even wanna talk about those so called interviews? Gordeno assessing this tour is the most innovative in terms of setlist? Eigner don't even remembering what he plaid the night before? Gahan admitting he was not himself on stage anymore but an “actor”, playing a “role”? Should I also talk about the Corbijn's direction? Not much to say... it's bad. Probably one of the worse concert editing I've seen. Let's stop here... and let's hope this comedy will soon come to an end. In 1983, a teeny poppy band arrived in Berlin to reinvent himself, to go the dark way and came back from there with three masterpieces, three albums that would define the sound of the electronic scene for the next decades and that have never been surpassed since then (e.g. ‘Construction Time Again’, ‘Some Great Reward’ and ‘Black Celebration’). And since then, the wall collapsed and DEPECHE MODE is back to Berlin to “let all the things they've built up crumble to dust” under the applause of an all new generation of “fans” that satisfied itself with this “show”...
Oh... as a bonus, we have two songs played in a... “bordello”. Do we have to see the symbol of the prostitution of the band to the wonderful show business standards? There was a time when DEPECHE MODE was the symbol of innovation, experimentation, talent, humility, loyalty to certain principles and most of all, they were unique. The perfect title for this DVD would have been ‘Pain and Suffering in various tempos’. Sad times indeed.
01. Welcome to My World
03. Walking In My Shoes
05. Black Celebration
06. Should Be Higher
07. Policy of Truth
08. The Child Inside
09. But Not Tonight
11. Soothe My Soul
12. A Pain That I'm Used To
13. A Question of Time
14. Enjoy The Silence
15. Personal Jesus
16. Shake the Disease
18. Just Can't Get Enough
19. I Feel You
20. Never Let Me Down Again
Vocals and chicken dance - Dave Gahan
Keyboards, vocals and noise - Martin L. Gore
Keyboards - Andy Fletcher
Keyboards, piano and massacre - Peter Gordeno
Plastic Drums - Christian Eigner
http://www.depechemode.com / https://www.facebook.com/depechemode
Total: 6 / 10