Review: Depeche Mode deliver smashing, smoldering show at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre
Memo to the world: Whatever you do, don’t tell the guys in Depeche Mode they’re in their 50s.
At an age when many of their peers are playing food fests and living on radio royalty checks, the British electro-pop icons are still capable of sandblasting a crowd of 14,000 with sweat, sex and swaggering energy, as they did Saturday night at Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre.
And no one seems to be having more fun than singer Dave Gahan, who at 51 can still pull off the rock ‘n’ roll sex god thing better than men more than half his age.
Grinning and gyrating like Cabaret’s puckish Emcee, Gahan owned the stage and crowd all night. Reaching back for 1986’s A Question of Time, Gahan swirled like a dervish, twirling his mic stand like a drum major, rousing the crowd like a Pentecostal preacher. And on Soothe My Soul – a thundering glam-ball from intense new album Delta Machine that shares much of the same DNA as Depeche Mode’s signature hit, Personal Jesus – Gahan leaped on a riser to wag his backside in a display every bit as shameless and effective as any delivered by Maroon 5’s Adam Levine on the same stage the night before.
As dominant as Gahan was, there were more tender moments when chief songwriter Martin Gore took the stage solo. The odds were stacked against him amidst Gahan’s alpha-male display, but Gore won the crowd over on ballads like Home and But Not Tonight, after which the crowd kept singing while Gahan bowed gracefully to his bandmate.
And for a band that’s been around 33 years, Depeche Mode seemed to have one hell of a good time knocking out their greatest hits.
Take the three biggies from 1990’s Violator, for example – Policy of Truth, Enjoy the Silence and Personal Jesus. On Policy, Gahan swung and swiveled his hips around the mic stand with a devilish smile on his face, swinging this way and that like a Gold Club dancer. Silence was performed before a video backdrop of nearly nude female contortionists (more sex! What a surprise!) with Gore’s electric guitar taking center stage. And both Gahan and Gore relished the slow-mo, overture to Personal Jesus, a spaghetti-western version that might have Quentin Tarantino rethinking his next soundtrack.
The encore was more of the same. A shirtless Gahan tugged at his low-slung waistband on the hammering I Feel You. An ocean of fans waved their hands in unison to Never Let Me Down Again, giving the Amp a stadium-like feel. Even flimsy, fluffy breakthrough 1981 single Just Can’t Get Enough got a shot of can-can vitality.
Through it all, the band smiled, gave their all and never once looked like a band on the decline. This is why Depeche Mode can still headline festivals like Coachella and South By Southwest – and they may be doing it for a long time to come.
Before Depeche Mode took the stage, opener Bat For Lashes delivered a dramatic set of gothic pop that yielded nothing to the cavernous amphitheater.
English chanteuse Natasha Khan’s ghostly, operatic warble seemed to float above the ominous, industrial rumble of songs like Sleep Alone and The Haunted Man; and hushed to a near whisper on the chamber-poppy What’s a Girl To Do?.
Khan, in her resplendent ruby gown, was a game frontwoman for her multifaceted band, much more charming and engaged than Bat For Lashes’ moody dreamscapes would suggest. She swirled and sashayed like a possessed belly dancer on the trip-hoppy slow-burner Oh Yeah and sultry, pizzicato All My Gold. Dreamy New Wave throbber Daniel closed the set, and judging by the scattered screams in the crowd, it was everything her fans – many of whom probably never expected to see Bat For Lashes in Tampa Bay – could have wanted.
If Khan comes back, hopefully it’ll be in a much smaller venue, in the dark wee hours of the night. No doubt it’d be that much more captivating.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*